Members to Chamber: It's The Economy

January 24, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — Concerns about the economy edged out health care and business taxes as the top issue of some 500 Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce members surveyed at the end of 2007.

Eighty-seven percent agreed they were strongly concerned about the economy, and 73 percent were strongly concerned about health care, said Jared Rodriguez, vice president of government affairs for the chamber. Business taxes trailed as a strong concern for 55 percent of respondents.

“Last year, the rising cost of health care was the No. 1 concern. It’s interesting to see how it changed a little bit,” Rodruiguez said. “I would attribute that to the lack of progress in our state as far as economic activity.”

Of those responding to the survey, 31 percent were businesses with 50 or fewer employees; 26 percent had 250 or more; and the remaining had 51 to 249 workers.

The members told the chamber that repeal of the Michigan Business Tax should be a top priority for 2008, as well as economic development, alternative fuel and energy, and public school and government funding. Seventy-one percent said reform of Medicare and Medicaid should be a top priority, and more than 65 percent expressed strong concern over health care utilization and prevention.

“Our members have spoken, and it’s a message we will take to our elected officials: Get Michigan back on track for business, make health care affordable and get your financial house in order, now,” chamber President Jeanne Englehart said in a press release.

Just as Michigan’s presidential primary election occurred, the economy displaced the war in Iraq as voters’ top concern in the polls. Rodriguez, who represents the local chamber in Lansing, said the primary may have served to draw attention to Michigan’s singularly struggling economy.

“The candidates are going to talk about the economy no matter what state they are in,” he said. “The key factor is that they realize Michigan has never come out of the last national recession, and I think they’re starting to realize that.”

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