And the survey says We believe

January 21, 2012
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A survey of the state’s largest employers, members of the Business Leaders for Michigan group, shows they are increasingly optimistic about Michigan’s short- and long-term economic future.

Just a year ago, they weren’t quite so bullish.

More than half of BLM’s 80 members said they were optimistic about the state’s economic outlook over the next six months, and a stunning 85 percent reported they held the same optimism for the next 18 months. Both results are an improvement from a year ago. The business leaders were also optimistic about the nation’s economy over the same timeframes, but not to the degree they reported for the state’s future. The rosy feeling about the economy partly came about because Lansing made some of the changes that BLM called for three years ago.

“Business-leader optimism about the state’s long-term economy is at a three-year high, and nearly a third of the largest job providers are planning increased hiring and investment in the next six months,” said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of BLM, a statewide business roundtable.

Other findings from the quarterly survey were: 53 percent said they will pay about the same or more under the state’s new corporate income tax, 67 percent reported they added jobs last year, and 75 percent said they invested in Michigan in 2011.

“Most of Michigan’s largest companies didn’t get a tax break under the new state corporate income tax but supported it because it was the right thing to do to create jobs,” said Rothwell.

Virtual reality

We’re off into the virtual blue yonder, which is where you’ll find real advancements in hospitality.

First, Experience Grand Rapids has developed what it calls a “high-tech resource” for visitors thinking of coming to this fair city by launching a digital version of its annual guide to all things interesting for those who are unaware of what the city offers. The guide also has “bonus content” and videos to peruse.

“We’ve embraced today’s technology to provide our visitors with the best possible experience. Our digital guide is easily accessible online, on smart phones and on tablets. We also built a mobile site that allows visitors to effortlessly navigate the city on their smart phones,” said Doug Small, Experience GR president and high-tech maven.

Second, the West Michigan Sports Commission was honored recently by the SportsEvents Media Group with its Reader’s Choice Award. The trade publication gave WMSC the award because it captured a lot of positive remarks in both the online realm and across the social media sphere.

“These award winners have proven they are willing to go above and beyond the normal service levels expected by both the physical attributes and commitment to hospitality and service that today’s discriminating sports-event planners demand,” said Kristen McIntosh, SportsEvents editor.

In response, WMSC executive director Mike Guswiler was his usual humble self when he said, “We are very pleased to have been identified as a leader in providing excellent service and professionalism in hosting various youth and amateur sporting events in West Michigan.”

Not too shabby for only being around five years. But c’mon, Mike, you’ve slammed it out of the park! OK, we know you’re not going to pump your fist while you circle the bases because you knew all along WMSC would be a hit.

Third, Michigan.org became the most visited tourism website last week for the fifth consecutive year by attracting more visitors than any other state. According to Travel Michigan — the genius behind the run of virtual success — the site had more than 8.6 million hits last year, was liked on Facebook by 337,000, and collected nearly 8 percent of the overall market share of visits to the 50 state tourism sites.

“The high volume of traffic to Michigan.org translates into business for travel and tourism destinations across the state, which helps retain and create jobs for Michigan residents,” said George Zimmermann, Travel Michigan vice president.

Big, but small

Community Shores Bank in Muskegon, struggling for more than a year with its default on a $5 million loan from Fifth Third Bank, showed an 80 percent decline in the value of its stock last week, compared with the week before.

In reality, the stock went down from 50 cents to 10 when 800 shares were traded. It was priced even lower at certain points in 2011.

“Our stock price is basically affected easily, simply by small trades,” said bank president/CEO Heather D. Brolick. “There is not a lot of liquidity in the stock. We’re trading over the bulletin board, so even a small trade can cause a great fluctuation in the stock price.”

The bank suffered serious losses during the recession, mainly due to declining real estate values.

The percent change in price “looks like a lot when it moves, but really, is it material or not?” said Brolick of the bank, which is now approaching its 12th birthday.

Are things improving for Community Shores?

“We’ve survived, and it’s a long pull now out of this hole, so to speak,” said Brolick. “But yeah, things are trending better. It’s reflective of the overall general improvement in the economic factors that we all read and hear about every day.

“We’re pulling out of it. The lakeshore’s doing better,” she added.

Wanted: interesting people

Think you’ve got what it takes to finagle an invitation to this year’s TEDxGR? The single-day, annual event brings together the region’s “most fascinating thinkers and doers,” and is seeking applicants who want to spread ideas and take action in the community.

TEDxGR 2012 will take place May 10 at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre with the theme “What Now?”

But there’s a catch. If you want to get in, you have to be deemed worthy.

That guy who pitches Dos Equis XX beer, Jonathan Goldsmith, would be a shoo-in. You, however, might find the task more difficult.

“TEDx is a movement encompassing hundreds of events around the world, with thousands of remarkable people bringing their brilliant ideas to participate in a conversation that is a reflection of their community,” said Steve Frazee, license holder of TEDxGR. “Grand Rapids has accomplished more than many communities can even begin to fathom, so we’re asking, ‘What now?’ How do we bridge the next steps as a community?”

Attendance to the second annual TEDxGR is by invitation only, but four weeks remain for the most interesting people in Grand Rapids to apply online at www.tedxgrandrapids.org/invitation-request-form. Fewer than 250 seats remain.

Stay interesting, my friends. Frazee and his co-collaborator, Bill Holsinger-Robinson, will be watching.

Founders keepers

Founders Brewing Co. is starring in the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s first series of Web videos where business leaders share the reason they opted to locate and grow their companies in Michigan.

Co-founder Dave Engbers offers insight into doing business in Michigan during a 2:32 segment posted on YouTube. Search “Pure Michigan Founders Brewing Company” on YouTube and it’s the first one on the list. Raise a glass, because it’s quite well done!

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