Survey: GR Area Growth Slows

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The downtown Grand Rapids skyline. WWJ file photo.

The downtown Grand Rapids skyline. WWJ file photo.

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GRAND RAPIDS — The West Michigan industrial economy is experiencing slower growth, according to the results of a monthly survey compiled by Brian G. Long, director of Supply Management Research in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University.

The survey results are based on data collected during the last two weeks of October. The survey’s index of business improvement, called new orders, retreated to +9 from +25. In a similar move, the production index edged lower to +8 from +25. The index of purchases backtracked to +6 from +14. The employment index fell to +15 from +27.

“Slow growth by any measure is still better that no growth at all,” said Long. “Our local statistics continue to be stronger than the rest of the country, and even the rest of the world. We hope that this trend will continue.”

Long said the automotive parts producers are keeping local statistics positive; in October auto sales for the industry were up by 8 percent. He said the office furniture firms are still holding steady, but the slowdown in the world economy is starting to erode the prospect for future performance. He also said industrial distributors are steady, but the slowing of the local economy has caused their sales to moderate.

“Despite the modestly positive numbers in this local survey, caution still remains that the world economy is still slowing and many countries may soon slide into a technical recession,” said Long. “For us, the big question remains about how much we will be drawn in if the economy for most of the rest of the world turns slightly negative. Barring an immediate collapse of the Euro, we still expect to see the current pattern of slow growth to continue in West Michigan for the next few months.  If we do slide into another recession, chances are this time we can blame it on the Europeans.”

The Institute for Supply Management survey is a monthly survey of business conditions that includes 45 purchasing managers in the greater Grand Rapids area and 25 in Kalamazoo. The respondents are from the region’s major industrial manufacturers, distributors and industrial service organizations. It is patterned after a nationwide survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Management. Each month, the respondents are asked to rate eight factors as “same,” “up” or “down.” An expanded version of this report and details of the methodology used to compile it are available at www.gvsu.edu/scblogistics.

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