Economic Development, Government, and Nonprofits

Survey finds CEOs exude confidence

More than 60 percent believe state’s economy will improve over next six months.

March 17, 2017
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Optimism among Michigan’s executives continues to be high in the wake of the 2016 election.

Business Leaders for Michigan’s first quarterly economic outlook for 2017 revealed 73 percent of survey respondents believe the national economy will improve over the next six months, while 63 percent said the same of Michigan’s economy. The quarterly survey is distributed to Business Leaders for Michigan members, comprising the most senior executives of the state’s largest companies and universities.

The 73 percent of business leaders who expect the economy to grow in the next six months is slightly lower than the outlook at the end of 2016, on the heels of the election. But optimism remains more than 10 times higher than it did in the third quarter of 2016, when just 6 percent of business leaders responded the economy would be better.

“I think the sentiment is that there’s a leadership in Washington that really does want to find a way to accelerate economic growth,” BLM President and CEO Doug Rothwell said. “While it’s still early, I think there’s a lot of support for the direction and tone of things they’re hearing in regard to tax and regulatory reform, and there’s a very positive outlook.”

Additionally, 71 percent of business leaders expect the national economy to improve over the next 18 months, and 60 percent believe Michigan’s economy would do the same.

The survey was released even prior to President Donald Trump’s visit to Ypsilanti last week, in which the President detailed plans to roll back automotive regulations he believes are superfluous and restrictive.

Trump’s visit last week happened to coincide with the Senate introduction of “Good Jobs for Michigan,” a legislative package that would increase the availability of incentives for businesses that choose to expand or relocate to Michigan. The legislation, backed by a coalition of about 50 organizations that includes BLM, would refund a portion of state income taxes paid on new hires for companies that add 250 jobs or more.

Rothwell said the bill resembles a previous package introduced last year that did not make it out of the legislature. But with the backing of the coalition and several other tweaks, the hope is the bill will pass the Senate and be over to the House of Representatives by April.

“We’ve really been working directly with House members to educate them on why this is needed,” Rothwell said. “The thing that has changed the most is at a national level — since the president’s election and the focus on bringing jobs back to America, it has created a sense of urgency that we didn’t have four or five months ago.”

How the swell of optimism among Michigan’s business leaders in recent months translates to action still is up in the air. But BLM’s survey revealed 56 percent of business leaders expect to add jobs in the next six months and 38 percent are planning to make capital investments in Michigan over the same timeframe.

“This all remains to be seen, as it’s still very early in the administration and new Congress, but I think that there is a sense that if they follow through in the declarations they’re making, we will see economic growth,” Rothwell said. “And you see it in the numbers, with the percentage of businesses expected to increase employment or capital spending. Because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about — can we create more good paying jobs in Michigan? And the answer to that, if Americans can accelerate growth, is ‘Yes, we can.’”

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