Street Talk

Street Talk: Politics don’t matter

Culture club.

January 13, 2017
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After Donald Trump assumes the office of the presidency Jan. 20, the course for the United States over the next four years will begin to take shape.

But according to economist Alan Beaulieu, who spoke before the Economic Club of Grand Rapids last week, a Trump presidency will have little impact on the nation’s economy, just like a Hillary Clinton presidency would have had little impact had the Democratic nominee won the election.

“The economy doesn’t really care who is president in terms of political affiliation,” said Beaulieu, a principal and president of ITR Economics. “The economy does not perform better in a Republican administration than it does in a Democratic administration, the Democrats don’t outperform the Republicans; it’s a statistical tie.

“You voted, America spoke and it makes no difference is what I’m here to tell you.”

The luncheon marked the seventh time Beaulieu addressed the Economic Club, and he went on to detail a growing national economic forecast for 2017, noting the United States maintains its status as the world’s largest economy with about 24.5 percent of the world’s gross world product.

To underscore his point about the nominal effects of a new president, Beaulieu showed the economy had been growing since before the November election — “this is not a Trump bounce,” he said, painting an encouraging picture the economy will continue to grow even after the effects of the election wear off.

Beaulieu predicted in the coming years the U.S. will see wage increases, higher taxes for the wealthy and business owners, and the continued trend of foreign companies coming into the United States. He also noted manufacturing is on the ascent, and commodities in the U.S. are increasing.

Keeping in line with the 10-year recession cycle, Beaulieu also forecasted the United States will experience a mild recession in 2018 and 2019, though that should set up for a strong bounce back in the following decade. This doesn’t bode particularly well for the president-elect, he said, as historically, the country has not re-elected a sitting president following a recession.

As for how business owners should approach a mild recession, Beaulieu suggested companies look to take advantage of the negative psychological connotations associated with a recession by “doing the things you’ve been waiting to do,” such as being more aggressive in looking to acquire new businesses and hiring more employees.

“All kinds of wonderful things that will prepare you for the wonderful 2020s, which are just around the corner from where we are today,” Beaulieu said. “And you are going to like the 2020s.”

People mover

Michigan is growing, at least in terms of population.

A migration study by Atlas Van Lines released earlier this month shows Michigan was seventh on the inbound list, shifting from its previous status as a balanced state. Michigan was the only inbound state in the Midwest, according to Atlas.

In 2016, 57.2 percent of moves in Michigan were from out-of-state. There were fewer moves within the state as well, according to the study, with 75,427 in 2016 against the 77,705 in 2015.

Michigan was an outbound state from 2007-10 and balanced from 2011-15.

Atlas’ data is backed up by the U.S. Census Bureau, which released its 2016 data in late December. The Census Bureau noted Michigan grew 0.1 percent, or 10,585 residents, from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016.

The population increase, however, lags the nationwide increase of 0.7 percent.

The increase in population likely means the housing market won’t cool down anytime soon, and retailers will continue to seek prime locations in West Michigan.

With the Grand Rapids Metro Statistical Area surpassing 1 million residents a few years ago, there already has been an influx of retailers new to the area. There still is a plethora of companies looking for space in the market or retail advisors at least in the process of coaxing them to come.

A builder recently told the Business Journal he doesn’t expect a slowdown in work for at least four years, as major developments will continue to feed smaller developments to service the growing population attracted to the area.

Jobs of the future

CNN reported the top job of 2016 was mobile app developer.

Mike Lomonaco, director of marketing and communications for Open Systems Technologies, said based on coverage of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, he’s ready to predict the top job of 2017.

Lomonaco said he expects to see a hiring boom for jobs related to virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality development.

Karl Sanford, application developer at OST, agreed.

“The big technologies right now (at CES) are VR and AR,” Sanford said. “The last few years have been more mobile based, and this year has seen a dramatic shift away from that, so it’s pretty telling.

“It is a job currently and will continue to grow as demand for these technologies grow.”

Sanford said he expects to see a lot of talent plucked from the video game realm for these jobs.

“For the technology and skills required to develop for it, really it will come out of the video game development space,” he said. “Those are the types of skills — especially with 3-D gaming, having spatial awareness and understanding the 3-D space — is paramount in developing. Right now, video game developers are the best suited for that, and the technology Microsoft has you using to develop for it are video game development tools.”

Sanford also gave a shout-out to Swedish parametric graphical configuration company Configura, which has its commercial operations in Grand Rapids, as being one of the leaders in 3-D development.

Configura debuted its CET Designer Virtual Viewer Extension this past summer at NeoCon, the annual contract furniture trade show in Chicago.

The software uses Oculus Rift goggles and gaming controls to allow users to wander through a designed virtual space.

“It’s enabling our users to show the new space (to clients) before it exists,” said Johan Lyreborn, Configura CEO. “It’s a new type of experience. You can ‘walk’ around and see everything in 3-D.”

Cultural competence

In an increasingly global marketplace, Davenport University wants to put cultural competence at the forefront as a key ingredient of success for business leaders.

That’s why the university announced last month that its Institute for Professional Excellence (IPEx) is organizing a trip called the International Business Experience (IBE), an eight-day immersive program that will help participants gain firsthand knowledge that can be applied in the workplace.

“Even if you have always considered yourself to be open-minded, immersing yourself in another culture reveals the unconscious biases and assumptions you didn’t even know you had,” said Frank Novakowski, of Davenport’s Donald W. Maine College of Business.

“Business leaders who develop the ability to effectively communicate with and relate to other professionals in different cultural contexts will be better equipped to create opportunities.”

The IBE, led by Novakowski, will take a cohort of emerging business leaders to the Czech Republic, a gateway to both central and western European markets. Participants will be exposed to globally successful companies operating in the Czech Republic, including Merck, Pfizer, Amazon, Honeywell, GE Aviation and Škoda (now a subsidiary of VW Group).

This IBE begins June 9, with program fee covering airfare, single occupancy accommodations, meals, transportation, corporate visits, professional networking events and cultural and historical tours. For more information, visit davenport.edu/ibe.

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