Wartime Means Changes For Business

March 24, 2003
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Politics aside, the greater Grand Rapids business community, like its peers across the country, is relieved to get past Saddam Hussein and the word “uncertainty,” and back to business, even such as it is during a declared war and what will certainly be a time of occupation.

Defense spending in the greater Grand Rapids area extends from map makers to Wolverine World Wide boots, but is especially expressed in the thousand or so men and women who left their jobs and families in this community to defend the United States Constitution.

Grand Rapids Business Journal reminds employers that specific related services are available as they deal with depleted ranks at home. A group formed by the Grand Rapids Bar Association is providing legal guidance not just to the families of the military but also to employers.

It is important to add to the list of benefits the names of counselors and counseling agencies, such as the Employee Assistance Center, that assist military families, as well as employees who may have deeply held concerns as a result of the war declaration and/or the attendant Homeland Security alert elevation.

The business community will negotiate delays as a result of the added security, especially for ground and ship transportation of goods crossing state borders and especially in Michigan as the international borders are protected. Just as loaned executives are assisting Gov. Jennifer Granholm in reducing the state bureaucracy under severe budget limitations, business can provide eyes and ears to security forces during the normal course of operations.

The Business Journal reports this week on the view from market analysts and the international business community ensconced in West Michigan, all of whom have expressed an eagerness to get on with the growth of business. Heartwell Mortgage Executive Vice President Jay Raniga noted that even the initial ultimatum delivered by President George W. Bush last week “signaled the beginning of the end of the uncertainty,” and that “pent-up demand on both the corporate and consumer sides will be unleashed.”

Both The Right Place Inc. and Van Andel Global Trade Center note that international companies want to continue to expand into other markets, and that remains a business decision, not a political decision. The importance of that work by both economic development groups is underscored in the release of Michigan’s unemployment rate last week, recorded at 6.2 percent for January — the highest in the nation.

The unemployment rate reflects what has occurred in the Grand Rapids market in a way never seen before. The relief provided by taking action last week may provide the biggest single spur for the battered furniture industry, even as the regional economy continues to diversify.           

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