Note to business leaders get over it and get with the plan

December 21, 2009
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As the state of Michigan establishes a schedule of furlough days, Grand Rapids City Commissioners are awaiting city staff budget reduction recommendations and saying goodbye to 109 city workers. Michigan’s unemployment rate is just below 15 percent.

It is a Charles Dickens “Christmas Carol” kind of holiday season — or, if one prefers, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The commonality between the two stories is centered on the ability of an individual (or several) to create change for the better — and focus on the future.

Grand Rapids Business Journal has noted heightened networking opportunities, the creativity of new partnerships and the many retooled or re-imagined businesses in the three-county area over and again this year. The varied economic outlook predictions for 2010 offer some perspective and are enthusiastically greeted by area business leaders. But we also know that business leaders do not wait for a “go” sign from anyone to advance their plans and their futures to move forward.

In this regard, the Business Journal finds that comments from Andrew Samrick bear repeating. Samrick is president of manufacturing consulting firm Simplicity Tactics, and was one of two featured speakers last week at an economic outlook gathering sponsored by BDO Seidman at Grand Valley State University. Samrick opined that business owners should “watch the facts, not the news,” and this publication has reported often of this penchant among area business owners. The reason he emphasized it, however, is that he has been witness to business community members who are “still afraid of the economy,” resulting in a “lethargic” pace in business planning for the year ahead that “will stymie ramp-up” of the economy.

Anticipating that “the credit spigot is going to open up very wide” within the next 10 weeks, Samrick further anticipates “most businesses aren’t ready to grow,” although the return of commercial credit will make growth possible for those who are ready.

Another of West Michigan’s strengths has been the ability of competitors to form associations to bolster one another through this recession, sharing best practices, source networks and, likely, the therapy of discussion of similar issues. The Right Place economic development team has a long history of highlighting “centers of excellence” within the region, providing those recruited to this area with a vast network of talent, just as the storied Silicon Valley provided a wide range of talent and potential in a concentrated region.

As “Father Time” closes out this challenging year, it serves to recall that it was also a year of success that will continue to build a varied regional economy. Consider Michigan State University’s new work with isotopes and the expansion of its College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids, as well as the Van Andel Institute’s expansion, Kellogg and Gerber R&D expansions and JCI’s plan for battery manufacturing in Holland.

Business plans are the bridge for the future — 2010.

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