Economic surge remains dependent on worker talent

January 7, 2011
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Leaders at Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University did much last week to provide analysis of the regional economy, though it must be said that even as reports are finished, they reflect numbers from the recent past. The analysts, however, also noted regional business expectations that translate to current economic conditions, and offer a foundation of business planning for the future.

Even as the recession began to choke businesses, the Business Journal warned that the public sector needed to plan for the fallout. As the economy improves in this region of Michigan, it is likewise advised that the public sector be cautious in reactionary measures based on the recent past. “Streamlining” government is wise in any economy but restructuring must be elastic enough to allow for great heights as well as lows. New taxes and structures cannot impede the momentum of businesses as the economy strengthens. We look forward to Gov. Rick Snyder’s State of the State message next week, for it will provide an outline of what more we might expect and how that corresponds to business plans already in place. Snyder has the counsel of respected economists. What remains to be seen is whether state Democrats now fully understand the relationship of business to their bottom … line.

Brian Long, director of supply chain management research at Seidman, noted that data collected in December continued to show improvements, and commented: “We had a good finish to 2010, and 2011 seems to be getting off to a good start.” Long’s report also includes comment from purchasing officers in the area, most of whom cited strong forecasts based on orders, quotes and stronger sales

Professors Paul Isley and Hari Singh at GVSU specifically noted health care sector impacts on the local economy. The best of that news was not so much in anticipated health care hiring (and shortfalls for such jobs), but in the research and development area. Isley noted, “We had a 35 percent increase in the total number of patents, or pre-patents or applications generated. This is still an understatement of the activity going on. Even given that, the part we can see is growing very quickly.” Isley went on to say that the beginning of new R&D emphasis in the Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan county statistical area could be expected to revitalize the economy.

The growth now being sustained, as reported by Long and Isley, was underscored in comments from Gorman’s furniture stores President Tom Lias, who is now leasing two of the former Israels store locations. In the Detroit-based company’s research, Lias noted West Michigan’s stable economy. “In spite of all the downturns and bad news you hear out of the eastern part of the state, the west has maintained itself … one of the few places in the Midwest growing and building.”

The Business Journal also notes that growth is again apparent at Ford and General Motors, and the supplier base here is again a beneficiary. The new economy jobs, however, have forever changed the face of that work force. The advanced skill sets and technological competency required are the issue. The competency of the work force is the glue for gains.

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