Mixed bag of indicators meets relentless positive action

April 22, 2012
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Even as financial analysts continue to sort through a “mixed bag” of economic reports, only the committed pessimist can deny the enthusiasm that undergirds “expectations” and the boost to consumer confidence. Stronger (than expected) corporate earnings pushed the Dow in the right direction but hiring reports left the country less than ebullient. Stark in the contrast to balance is that government statistical information is a reflection of the past, not real time. Michigan residents had  reason to cheer as the unemployment rate for the state was at its lowest since August 2008.

In the Grand Rapids metro area, a hearty congratulations is obviously due the Kent County Board of Commissioners and county staff for its renewed Triple A bond rating, even as the equalization report again showed a net decrease in personal property values in 2011. Against the fifth consecutive year of declining tax revenues, the county managers were awarded the gold standard of financial ratings — for the 14th consecutive year.

The Business Journal also is reporting the Commercial Alliance of Realtors showed sales are up over the same period last year, though sales volume is down. What should not be missed in the mix is CAR President Mary Anne Wisinski-Rosely’s comment that the measured industrial sector slowdown is not an indication of lack of demand. “The industrial sector is experiencing something that hasn’t been seen for several years: the need for new construction of manufacturing and warehouse space,” she noted.

The CAR report provides proof of the activity forecast at the close of 2011 by the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo. The Upjohn update last month (noting that analysts had been too pessimistic last year) shows continued reason for gains in industrial real estate with continued growth due the rebounding auto industry. Gains also are showing in food products and aerospace industries. Auto and light truck sales for the first part of this year increased by almost a 2-million-unit annualized rate. As far as the larger regional reporting, Upjohn notes the Chicago Federal Reserve’s Midwest Economy Index also is up, particularly in the same industries reflected in West Michigan.

While analysts note the economy is growing ever so slowly, the wet blanket they cast is in the question of sustainability. Fortunately, entrepreneurs are generally optimists, and that, too, is showing brick by brick in the West Michigan region. Small business celebrations and a renewal of entrepreneurism will be celebrated over the coming weeks here and across Michigan. An employment survey of small Michigan companies showed about 35 percent expect to hire full- and part-time employees this year.

The business community is certain to find Gov. Rick Snyder amidst the celebrations, urging adherence to “relentless positive action.” The economic news now is more about attitude and the confidence to continue to build.

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