Economic growth is spurred by a diverse work force

May 14, 2012
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Brian Long, Ph.D., director of Supply Chain Management Research at Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University, notes in his monthly update on page 18 that this region continues to show economic growth, even while “employers continue to complain about the lack of skilled workers to hire.”

In this region, marked with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. or in Michigan, the assessment is especially troubling. Continued growth, even at the current pace, is threatened if business owners are unable to hire a competent work force. The necessity of company training programs is made more obvious by these facts.

The concerns make all the more important programs like the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce EPIC Awards and the Michigan Manufacturers Association Manufacturer of the Year awards. The nominees and winners offer learning opportunities and leadership models to their peers.

Of interest here is the citation by MMA about John McIntyre, president and CEO of Anderson Global and Anderson Express in Muskegon. The association noted McIntyre was honored for having put together a group to buy a financially strapped business “in an old plant with a dwindling U.S. customer base, an aging work force and a challenging union environment.”

McIntyre negotiated the firm’s first concessionary labor agreement and invested in automation of skilled-trade work, “creating a culture built on knowledge workers, with the machines doing the work.” The two tooling firms have grown from a customer base of two in two markets to more than 20 customers in a growing market, and from 45 employees to more than 140, with sales of more than $30 million.

This week, May 16, the chamber celebrates the entrepreneurial, progressive, innovative and collaborative (EPIC) traits displayed by companies that are finalists for awards in six categories, which represent ethnic and gender diversity. The chamber’s vice president of diversity and community initiatives, Sonya Hughes, will speak to the Partners for a Racism-Free Community the same day.

The thoughtful consideration and continued work is underscored by the evidence of area racism in 2010 U.S. Census statistics related to neighborhood incomes and residential segregation. Such will continue to be the case if business owners fail to see recruitment possibilities in a diverse population. And economic growth, however slow, will stagnate.

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