Local survey report indicates slow growth for West Michigan

GVL / Archive

GVL / Archive

Meghan McBrady

The economic growth rate in West Michigan is slowly returning to normal, according to a monthly regional purchasing manager survey report.

Brian G. Long, the director of supply management research in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University, surveyed more than 45 purchasing managers in Grand Rapids and 25 in Kalamazoo to collect data within the last two weeks of October.

The survey’s index of business improvement, which is called new orders, advanced +19 from its original +14.

The survey’s employment index indicated that there was a flip back to positive at +5, which is up from -3. Long said that while those results show that the West Michigan economy has somewhat flattened out, they are still better off than the U.S. economy and shows that there is further room for upward expansion.

“The most important thing to remember is that growth is still growth,” Long said. “The whole survey together gives a pretty clear picture, like all the pixels adding up together on a television screen, as the different groups together will show how the economy is going – whether it is going same, up, or down.”

Long emphasized that the economic growth –that up and down effect – has primarily revolved around the automotive industry, office furniture business and aerospace industry for growth.

He indicated in his survey report that the automotive industry continues to be at near-full capacity, while plant expansion has somewhat slowed.

Office furniture, he also noted, is high with local firms growing, but the aerospace industry is smaller than the automotive industry and office furniture, and new orders remain to be driven by the major players in the industry, like Boeing and Airbus.

Paul Isely, the associate dean of undergraduate programs and budgets in the Seidman College of Business, said this economic growth is also picking up pace across the labor chain, benefiting low-skilled workers to the highly skilled workers.

“What we have seen is that there is a relatively slow growth, a little more slowly than the last few years, but a growth in individuals finding and keeping jobs,” Isley said. “I think that the next year will be a little interesting as there will be a bit of a slowdown in comparison to the last two years in West Michigan.”

While Long did not mention it in his survey report, he also discussed how various economic conditions and prospects that revolve around students, primarily noting those GVSU students who are graduating in December and April.

“In the terms of those graduating students, it is still reasonable for them to find jobs and work as the economy continues to grow,” Long said. “While there has been a decline in jobs within the last few years, like the Great Recession in June 2009, it really doesn’t mean that job market is shying from students – rather, it is opening them up to new opportunities and change, no matter if it is up, down or same.”

For more information about the Seidman College of Business, visit www.gvsu.edu/seidman.