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Current West Michigan Business Trends Point To Modest Gain

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The downtown Grand Rapids skyline. WWJ file photo.

The downtown Grand Rapids skyline. WWJ file photo.

(credit: istock) Technology Report
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GRAND RAPIDS — The West Michigan industrial economy has shown modest improvement, 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, edged up to plus 6, from zero. The production index remained negative at minus one, but that was an improvement from minus 10 the previous month. The purchasing index slipped back to minus 7, down from zero. The employment index was unchanged at plus 4.

“Part of the recent strength of our local economy relates to the uptick in the office furniture business, which is now significant for several firms,” said Long.  “For industrial distributors, this month’s performance can best be described as mixed.”

Long said Kent County reported housing starts up 32 percent over a year ago.

“With the housing market now nicely recovering from an apparent bottom, potential buyers are taking advantage of the record low interest rates to buy homes,” he said.

Long added many business owners are waiting until after the election and after the “taxmageddon” situation has been resolved before committing new resources. He said business owners don’t like to expand or hire new people in an environment of extreme uncertainty, and the way ahead should be much clearer in January.

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.

For more information, contact Brian Long at (269) 323-2359.

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