Business trends: Growth returns to normal

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The economic growth rate in West Michigan has returned to normal, according to Brian G. Long, director of Supply Management Research in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University.

Long surveyed local business leaders; his findings are based on data collected during the last two weeks of July.

The survey's index of business improvement, called new orders, improved to +22, from +19. The employment index continued its positive trend at +25, up from +20. The production index rose to +26 from +16, and the index of purchases eased to +14 from +24.

Long said the West Michigan economy remains on a solid footing, but the growth rate has tapered off because the summer months are often slower for local industries.

"The six-year pattern of slow growth continues on track, although we have had a few minor adjustments along the way," said Long. "The late summer economy for West Michigan should remain in the slow growth paradigm." 

Long said local auto parts producers and the office furniture industry are still near full capacity and reporting business conditions to be stable or expanding. He said the summer pattern for industrial distributors remains mixed and the capital equipment firms are generally flat compared to a few months ago. He added that with the fall in oil and commodity prices, firms tied to the extractive industries are having some difficulties.

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 local economy is back to normal (audio).

* Long said the employment index has been positive for 18 months and is getting stronger (audio).

* Long said the automotive industry helped the local economy stay strong all summer (audio).

* Long said the rest of the world is having economic difficulty (audio).