Michigan’s economy looking up

The Michigan House Commerce Committee continued hearing from business and economic development organizations from across the state this month with recent presentations from the Detroit Regional Chamber and National Federation of Independent Businesses, both of which gave promising reports.

“I’ve appreciated all the information people have brought before us to help give the committee a picture of where Michigan is at and where we need to be going to continue helping create good jobs in the state,” said Rep. Frank Foster, committee chair.

Sandy K. Baruah, Detroit Regional Chamber president and CEO, gave a short overview of the four primary purposes of the chamber for southeast Michigan that also benefit the entire state – business attraction; hosting delegations of potential companies and government partners; image enhancement for the region; and economic development, which he spent the majority of his testimony on for the committee’s purposes.

Economic development programs such as MICHAuto, Translinked and Connection Point all center on presenting Michigan as the place to be for global markets of manufacturing, a U.S. hub for worldwide transportation, and inserting Michigan-based businesses into the global supply chain. Baruah reported that in the last two years the chamber has worked on 70 active business leads and developed $200 million in contracting opportunities that Michigan businesses have so far successfully closed deals on for $30 million of them.

“Michigan has incredible assets that no one knows about, because we haven’t done a good enough job of getting the word out about us so we’ve been a fly-over state for too long,” Baruah said. “That is changing with the reforms that have been made in the last two years, which have made my job of filling the pipeline with economic development leads much easier – so thank you for doing that.

“They’re not knocking down the door, but at least we have a shot at attracting attention and that’s the important piece for Michigan, that we can get back on the playing field.”

Charlie Owens, Michigan State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said existing small businesses also are benefiting from the tax restructuring that improved the state’s rank from 49th to 7th; $400,000 in the budget stabilization or rainy day fund, and improved bond rating from “stable” to “positive.”

“Uncertainty is a serious detriment in business decisions and right now because of the moves Michigan has taken, the small business climate indicators we are seeing in our state are in stark contrast to those at the national level,” Owens said. “Michigan is moving away from central planning and burdensome government, while the federal level is going in the opposite direction with weak sales, regulatory issues and tax changes that are creating that uncertainty that I just mentioned earlier.

“It does take time, but we believe there’s been great progress at the state level and say stay the course. If anything, we would like to urge national leaders to change the direction they are going in, as much as that is possible.”

Owens also presented a 2010 USA Today poll found that readers ranked small businesses as most trustworthy, followed by technology companies, then churches and religious organizations.

Foster said both presentations were good news for the future of Michigan.

“I’m glad to hear further evidence that Michigan is getting back on track,” said Foster, R-Petoskey. “And if small business is trusted above government, then I’m going to listen to what they say about how we can help improve our economy and add better jobs.”