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Street Talk: Michigan needs a lesson in climate change

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December 29, 2012
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How good is Michigan’s economic climate? The answer depends on who you are asking.

Gov. Rick Snyder probably is nursing a case of carpal tunnel syndrome today after signing reams of bills into law, many of which had a direct impact on business.

This month, Forbes released its annual list of Best States for Business and Careers, which the Dems saw as an opportunity to vent some frustration.

“Michigan has not improved its slot at number 47, despite Gov. Snyder slashing taxes for big corporations and making up the difference by taxing seniors’ pensions, cutting funding for public education and municipal governments,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer.

“Gov. Snyder sold voters a bill of goods when he said his $1.8 billion in tax cuts for corporate special interests would make Michigan more attractive to business development. Snyder has yet to demonstrate how many jobs were created because of his massive tax giveaway to corporations. Slashing funding for our kids’ schools, our public universities, and municipal services like fire, police and libraries has actually made our state less attractive to businesses.”

Okaaaay, tell us how you really feel, Mark.

Another piece of legislation Snyder signed into law had to do with providing personal property tax relief for manufacturers and small businesses, which the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce marked as one of its top priorities for 2012.

“This removes a significant barrier to business investment and expansion, creating additional high-quality jobs for our community,” said Rick Baker, president and CEO of GRACC. “Michigan was the only remaining state in the Midwest with a dependence on this tax, making us uncompetitive.”

“Our membership has always understood that local communities and schools rely upon PPT revenue to provide essential services,” added Chris Glass, director of public policy for the chamber. “This package of bills responsibly replaces that revenue while creating an environment for more jobs.”

Chamber officials specifically thanked Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and a group of West Michigan local governments that included the cities of Grand Rapids and Wyoming, Kent and Ottawa counties, and the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council for providing input that enabled the legislature to support the reform.

A recent Anderson Economic Group report estimates that eliminating Michigan’s industrial personal property tax, in combination with other tax reforms, will create between 20,000 and 45,000 jobs.

That’s good, because the Forbes report doesn’t paint a very rosy picture. The top states for business and careers were Utah, Virginia, North Dakota, North Carolina and Colorado. Those ranking below Michigan were Hawaii, Rhode Island and Maine.

Further examination of the numbers shows that Michigan ranked dead last in labor supply, and the other numbers weren’t much more encouraging. The Wolverine State came in at No. 38 for business costs, 21 for regulatory environment, 48 for economic climate, 40 for growth prospects and 24 for quality of life.

Obviously, there is still much work to be done.

His Holiness in 140

His handle is @Pontifex and 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI can tweet in eight languages on his brand new Twitter account.

On Dec. 12, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church tentatively typed out his first tweet on an iPad. It read: “Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.” (For those of you counting, that's the maximum 140 characters allowed. Once His Holiness gets the hang of things, he'll want to shorten his messages up a bit so they'll be easier for his followers to re-tweet.)

And followers he has — more than 1.8 million and counting. The pope is already a hit in the Twitter-verse, which makes one wonder why he didn't sign up a long time ago.

That thought leads to a more important question: How many small business owners, entrepreneurs, professionals and authors are not yet using this social networking platform?

The pontiff took to Twitter for the same reasons anyone with something to market should:

  • He needs to generate leads.

“Part of the pope's job description is to spread the word,” Greg Burke, senior communications adviser for the Vatican, has said. “Twitter is turning out to be a very effective way of doing this.”

According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, while there are 66.3 million Catholics in the United States, the growth rate has slowed in past years, and only 24 percent of Catholics attend Mass every week.

The church also has a problem with declining numbers of U.S. priests. The shortage has left nearly 3,400 parishes without a resident pastor. And book and product sales? Word of mouth to the world's more than 1.2 billion Catholics can only help.

  • He wants to keep the customers he has.

It's not just about growing his clientele; the pope wants to keep his existing church members coming back. Interacting with them regularly through the give-and-take of a platform like Twitter helps him create a more personal relationship with them. (On his first day of tweeting, the pope responded to three questions posed by followers using his #askpontifex hashtag.) It will also keep him in front of his target audience if he posts tweets regularly, responds to followers and occasionally re-tweets their messages.

  • He has an important message to share.

The pontiff had thousands of followers even before his first tweet! Why? Because many people already were interested in his message, and they expect his posts will have value for them. So far, they apparently have. The third and final question from followers that he answered on his first day tweeting was, "Any suggestions on how to be more prayerful when we are so busy with the demands of work, families and the world?" His response: “Offer everything you do to the Lord, ask his help in all the circumstances of daily life and remember that he is always beside you.” It had been re-tweeted nearly 20,000 times just two days later. The pope has a message he wants the world to hear. That's a good sign he'll be successful on social media.

“I find it fascinating, but not surprising, that Pope Benedict XVI is embracing social media,” said Marsha Friedman, a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. “While the Catholic Church is a centuries-old institution steeped in tradition, it recognizes the need to be where its audience is if it hopes to remain visible and relevant in their lives. For anyone in business, or anyone marketing anything, that's not only true for you, too, it’s essential.”

School safety

Grand Valley State University recently was ranked in the top 10 for campus safety among all Michigan public colleges and universities for the second year in a row.

The rankings, compiled by stateuniversity.com, are based on incidents of campus crime as reported to campus safety officials. This is the second year the website has compiled the rankings.

Grand Valley was ranked the sixth safest campus in the state. The top five include Oakland Community College, Delta College, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Lansing Community College and Central Michigan University.

As part of the safest schools ranking, the website analyzed crime statistics for 450 colleges and universities, and assigned a safety rating to each.

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