Street Talk: Economic reality check


Michigan Future Inc. recently released its first report in nearly a decade evaluating the performance of the state during an “expanding Michigan economy.”

Although there were a number of positive highlights — the state led the nation in terms of job growth during 2010 and 2014 with an 8.6 percent increase compared to the country’s 6.9 percent growth — the report concluded Michigan has become a low-prosperity state.

The moral of the story: What made Michigan prosperous in the 20th century is no longer sustaining the state in terms of generating a broad middle class and having a high per capita income.

The report, Michigan’s Transition to a Knowledge-Based Economy 2007-2014, indicated the reason the state is falling behind its Great Lakes neighbor Minnesota is due to “the proportion of the population working, the proportion working in knowledge-based services, and a substantially higher wage in knowledge-based services.”

The report compared the two largest metropolitan statistical areas in Michigan against other regions that have transitioned to a knowledge-based economic structure.

Lou Glazer, Michigan Future president, indicated the Boston, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee stories show the transition is doable.

“The fact that you were factory-based in the past, or even in the present, doesn’t mean you can’t make the transition,” said Glazer. “There are a lot of people in Michigan who sort of think of ourselves, define ourselves, as a place that makes things. Pittsburgh is more prosperous today than in its steel heyday.”

The economic study emphasized high-educational attainment is a key economic development priority for Michigan, and the silver lining to the state’s diagnosis is the powerful role a vibrant central city such as Grand Rapids can play in attracting college-educated talent. Grand Rapids’ 25-to-34-year-old population had a 69.5 percent employment rate, and more than 42 percent of the population had a bachelor’s degree, according to the report.

“Millennials are increasingly deciding to live in central cities,” said Glazer. “The 25-to-34-year-old college-attainment rates for the region, particularly the city of Grand Rapids, are actually quite impressive.”

Success with Failure

Jeanne Englehart just can’t quit. Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur.

Englehart has signed on as COO of Failure Lab, which she refers to as a “groundbreaking, innovative company.” Her level of excitement to work with the group is equally expressive. “These young guys are the real deal!”

Englehart, founder of Englehart Training, former Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO and former staffer to U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers also continues a high level of community involvement and in fundraising for such causes as Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

The long view

The annual Economic Symposium featuring economic professors from four West Michigan private colleges last week revealed more than a set of 2016 predictions. The event sold out to a crowd of more than 230 people, held at Cornerstone University to benefit the West Michigan Sports Commission.

Panelists Brad Stamm, Cornerstone, John Lunn, Hope College, Adel Abadeer, Calvin College, and Todd Yarbrough, Aquinas College, all agreed in tableside conversation prior to taking the stage that they were not “wizards” of predictions, and that wizards have a better chance of being right.

Abadeer, an Egyptian immigrant with a Ph.D. in economics from Boston University, was asked about the impact of the terrorist attacks in France Nov. 13, and what implications the terrorist struggle and world reactions might have on the world economy.

He paused and then said, “I can make a quick example for you: On Friday, Americans woke up to the news of the attacks. At 5 p.m. the same day, the Dow and other markets closed higher.”

Mass appeal

The Diocese of Grand Rapids is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its telecast of Catholic mass in West Michigan.

In 1955, the diocese was one of the first in the nation to provide a live, televised mass on a weekly basis. Today, Sunday mass is broadcast live on television and online from the Cathedral of Saint Andrew to hundreds of thousands of viewers in the diocese and beyond.

“The televised mass has been a wonderful ministry to those who are homebound and incarcerated, as well as others who are unable to attend mass in person,” said Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak, bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids.

In 1953, the early days of local television, Father Hugh Michael Beahan began a show on WOOD TV in Grand Rapids called “Fifteen With Father.” The program featured Father Mike in studio analyzing and discussing matters of current religious interest.

In April 1955, from its studios, WOOD TV began televising Catholic mass on Sundays, with Father Mike running the show.

In 1966, the Cathedral of Saint Andrew was equipped with cameras, a control room and broadcast equipment so the mass could be broadcast live from the church, making the Diocese of Grand Rapids one of the first in the nation to do so.

“When I was elected president of the National Catholic Broadcasters in 1976, the first visit I made was to Grand Rapids,” said Very Reverend John Geaney, rector of the Cathedral of Saint Andrew. “The man I was coming to see was Monsignor Beahan, who was producing a mass each Sunday that was being broadcast live. No one was doing that in those days. So, I came to Grand Rapids to find out what wonderful things were being done here. Little did I ever think that, one day, I would be fortunate enough to be the frequent presider at that televised mass.”

Mass from the Cathedral of Saint Andrew can currently be seen on FOX 17 at 10 a.m. every Sunday, as well as live on the diocesan website,, where recordings of the mass are also available on-demand.

Expensive tastes

It was announced last week that San Diego-based Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits would be sold to Constellation Brands, the makers of Corona, Modelo and other beers, for $1 billion.

That’s a craft beer company approximately the same size as Founders Brewing Co. — sold for $1 billion. That’s billion with a “B”!

Good for them.

Many experts already had looked at the sale of 50 percent of another California-based brewery, Lagunitas Brewing, for $500 million as a much-inflated valuation. And Lagunitas is the nation’s sixth-largest craft brewer.

With Ballast Point, and its much-hyped Sculpin IPA, beginning distribution to Michigan this week, it was fitting to ask brewers at the International Wine, Beer and Food Festival’s Beer City Round Table — which had more participants than a Republican presidential debate — if they’d take $1 billion for their breweries, most of which are a fraction of the size of Ballast Point.

Many of the owners said “No!” with a number of the non-owner brewers on the panel immediately calling them out.

David Ringler, owner of the newly opened Cedar Springs Brewing Co., did offer a good excuse for saying no. Ringler sold a successful financial planning firm to open the dream endeavor he’s been planning since the 1990s. He said he already gave up making more money to pursue his passion.

We’ll accept that answer, but we still might raise a toast with one of Ballast Point’s canned cocktails, which local distillers should take a gander at — looking at you Jon O’Connor and Kyle Van Strien from Long Road Distillers.

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