Current business trends: Slow growth accelerates

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The greater Grand Rapids industrial economy experienced slow but accelerated 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 March. See the full report at www.gvsu.edu/scblogistics.

The survey’s index of business improvement, called new orders, advanced to +27 from +19. The production index rose to +20 from +18. The employment index jumped to +19 from +10 and the index of purchases advanced to +19 from +16.

Long said the employment index provides a source of optimism. “For March, our index rose to +19, the highest it has been since last summer,” said Long. “Part of the increase can be attributed to the recent increases in new orders, especially for those firms that are running enterprise (ERP) software. Another factor relates to the new investments several of our local firms have made. However, smaller firms are still not participating in the expansion, resulting in the local unemployment numbers still being higher than satisfactory.”

Long said West Michigan is still faring much better that the rest of the state. Among the unemployment rates in the 83 Michigan counties, Kent County is second best, followed by Ottawa County at number three, and Kalamazoo County at number four. Long added that auto sales continue to be the driving force behind the Michigan recovery. He said sales for the industry were up 6 percent, although car sales were only 1 percent and light trucks made up 11 percent of the total.  

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.

DOWNLOADABLE AUDIO

* Long said the auto industry continues to carry the West Michigan economy (audio).

* Long said the employment numbers bring good news (audio).

* Long said local developers have worked hard to win new business from around the world (audio).

* Long said economists are keeping a close eye on China (audio).