Optimism for area economy in 2011

Courtesy Photo / gvsu.edu
Grand Valley State University economist Hari Singh

Courtesy Photo / gvsu.edu Grand Valley State University economist Hari Singh

Anya Zentmeyer

The greater Grand Rapids area received a boost of confidence for the new year from Grand Valley State University economist Hari Singh during the Seidman College of Business’ 2011 economic forecast report on Jan. 19.

“The reason why it’s positive this time around for 2011 is because employment for the first time is supposed to pick up significantly,” Singh said. “So employment will grow by about 2 percent for West Michigan.”

The 2-percent growth in employment may be the beginning of a more optimistic pattern, Singh said.

“And now manufacturing is going to start growing slowly again so a 2-percent growth in the employment process is a significant growth but you need that for a number of years – four or five years – to actually make a dent in the unemployment rate.”

Singh said confidence in the economy will reach above the projected 59 percent for 2011 while people slowly crawl their way out of the recession. The past two years the confidence index dipped down to 49 percent.

The survey Singh conducted in November 2010 across sectors included business leaders from Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties. The survey required respondents to use a scale from zero percent – no confidence at all – to complete confidence at 100 percent.

Approximately 60 percent of respondents indicated they will hire in 2011, a fact that Singh attributed to a positive outlook.

“If they’re more confident about the future, then they tend to hire more workers and spend more money for investment – so things all around from a economic picture point of view – the macro-picture point of view starts looking positive,” he said.

Nominal sales are expected to grow by 2.5 percent, and a 9 percent expected growth on exports also indicate the return of blue skies in the greater Grand Rapids area for 2011.

The key to sustaining a successful growth in Grand Rapids, Singh thinks, is sustainability itself – alternative energy, to be more specific.

“So we need to position ourselves, in terms of the state, having different kinds of policies and different kinds of opportunities for having different kinds of inventions and different kinds of productions in alternative energy,”

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