Jobs come from thoughtful investment, wise strategies

December 14, 2009
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The year-end sport of gazing into crystal balls to determine economic strength is acknowledged on one level, but those with business plans and strategies tend to move on regardless, much as Michigan business owners have been forced to do in spite of a crippled and fatuous legislature.

Much of the economic prognosticating continues to be charted based on manufacturing age measurements. The common measures are best used to explain where an economy stands in present time or recent past rather than future. How else can one explain the differences between a survey of West Michigan employers showing 16 percent of those polled indicated they would hire in the first quarter of 2010, and 69 percent intend to maintain current staffing levels?

As is indicated this week in the Business Journal Focus Section, the temporary staffing industry is handling increased demand, as some employers wait to make permanent hires as economic improvement is sustained. In the story on page 1, Fifth Third Chief Fixed Income Officer Mitch Stapley is suggesting a return to “normalcy” in 2010, at least “more normal” and without the drama of 2009.

There were other indicators last week from the Center for Michigan, a nonprofit, nonpolitical think tank based in Ann Arbor. The Center asked University of Michigan and Michigan State University economists to review figures released in the fall from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The findings underscore and are encouraging for communities (businesses) that have remained focused on fundamental strengths and proven abilities.

Among the notes from the review:

— In Grand Rapids, a 21 percent increase in the information economy. The Bureau reported that growth to be an inflation adjusted $638 million in 2001 compared to $771 million in 2008.

— In Kalamazoo, home to the Kalamazoo Promise, a 44 percent increase in real estate and rental and leasing, and a 42 percent jump in professional and technical services.

Regional economic growth also is spurred in Battle Creek by Kellogg’s $54 million to expand its W.K. Kellogg Institute for Food and Nutrition research facility. The facility was dedicated in September, and also created the National Center for Food Protection and an International Food Protection Training Institute.

Economic developers note that Kalamazoo is recognized for pharmaceutical research, Grand Rapids for medical-science research, Holland for materials science — and all offer varied opportunities for spouses of any worker recruited for those jobs.

Between Kellogg, a $75 million expansion at Gerber in Fremont and Roskam Bakery’s expansion in a former Steelcase facility in Kentwood, the food industry must be considered a leg of the regional economic stool … and then one can multiply the “domino effect” by R&D in the life sciences industry which is slowly becoming more intertwined. Dave Van Andel, chairman and CEO of the Van Andel Institute, noted last week his family-owned business, Amway, has a long history in nutrition and nutritional products. This was on the eve of VAI’s celebration of its completed eight-story, $178 million Phase II expansion.

The measure of economic success is bound to an educated population and is greater in new economy businesses. Regions — especially this region — are not separated but bound together in such a way that jobs domino from each success and investment.

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