Business Index: Michigan Firms See Signs Of Growth

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While the economy remains tough throughout the Great Lakes State, a growing number of Michigan’s small- and mid-sized businesses are feeling better about their long-term future as they start to see signs of growth. 

Additionally, businesses continue to report difficulty in finding qualified applicants to fill the small, but steadily rising, number of new jobs.

The findings come from the semi-annual Future Business Index study, commissioned by Lansing-based Accident Fund Insurance Co. of America and conducted by EPIC-MRA in October 2010. A total of 600 Michigan business owners, operators, officers and managers were interviewed for this survey.

This year’s survey yielded some positive results despite the lingering sluggish economic conditions. The survey showed an uptick in reports of “overall satisfaction” with the economy, moving up five percentage points to 22 percent from the immediately preceding survey reading of 17 percent in January 2010. This is the highest this particular measure has been since November 2006, when the overall satisfaction measure was at 29 percent.

“Many of our Accident Fund customers are small- and mid-sized businesses so it is encouraging to see that Michigan businesses are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mike Britt, Accident Fund president. “We would like nothing better than to see Michigan businesses grow and prosper. A healthy business climate in Michigan is good for all of us.”

Other positive results from the survey include:

* Six-month business outlook: The survey shows a slight upward trend in the numbers expressing a positive outlook for businesses over the next six months, now at 42 percent, up three percentage points from the January 2010 survey. This number is 14 points higher than the low point in November 2008, when the “positive outlook” total was at 28 percent.  This is a very positive sign, as the current numbers reflect a 50 percent improvement over two years.

* Six-month “bottom line” expectations: The number of businesses saying their bottom line will “worsen” over the next six months, with costs taking a larger share of the profits, dropped to 22 percent in the current survey. This is down five percentage points from 27 percent in the January 2010 survey. This is the lowest this measurement has been since November 2006, when it was at 23 percent.

* Hiring and layoffs. The survey shows a small, but steady, increase in the number of new jobs projected to become available in the next six months, along with no expectation of an increase in the number of layoffs. Specifically, 11 percent of businesses said they plan to hire more workers, with just three percent saying they plan on layoffs. Over the past six months, 11 percent of Michigan businesses had new jobs available that went unfilled, with 85 percent of these businesses saying they number one reason the jobs remain unfilled is because there are not enough qualified applicants for the positions.

“Upon reviewing the statewide Future Business Index survey results, I am ecstatic to discover that Michigan’s small businesses are beginning to turn the corner and start on the road to recovery from this long economic recession,” said Chris Holman, long-time small business advocate for the state of Michigan and publisher of the Greater Lansing Business Monthly. “The fact that our hard-working business owners are showing less concern about their economic future and that they will be making new hires over the next six months is a testament to their resiliency and desire to make Michigan great again.”

A summary of the FBI survey is available at http://www.accidentfund.com/media.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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