Street Talk: West Michigan: lower unemployment, higher growth


The growing number of consumers in China is a good thing for manufacturing centers like West Michigan, according to Brad Haverkamp.

“Among our clients, the manufacturing sector is the strongest,” said Haverkamp, senior vice president of business banking at Chase in Grand Rapids.

“Manufacturing capacity in China is increasingly being used to produce products for the China markets versus export. Much of the work that moved offshore in the last few years is moving back to the United States.”

In fact, he said, Chase is seeing strength across all sectors of the economy: “Company balance sheets are strong with good liquidity and low to appropriate leverage.” In other words, not much debt.

“We are bullish on the West Michigan economy,” Haverkamp said, and through 2013, Chase expects the Michigan economy to perform well and recover. “We expect the West Michigan economy to have lower unemployment and higher growth than state averages.”

Now is a great time for business to seek financing for expansion, he added.

“Interest rates remain very attractive and banks have significant capital. As a result of relatively low loan demands over the last few years, banks are eager to make loans to qualified borrowers. In this environment, good loan terms and conditions are almost a given to qualified borrowers. When I counsel companies on selecting a financial institution, I encourage them to look not only at loan terms and conditions, but at the quality of the treasury management products and services the financial institution can offer them,” Haverkamp said.

The blogger is linking

Robert Genetski, the beloved BJ blogger of all things in the economy, emailed to say his “beat” is boring … for now. (We see it as further proof that crisis commands headlines, not good economic news.)

Until Genetski is again preoccupied by the numbers, golfers beware. He warned us:

“The lack of significant economic news is likely to continue this coming week. I'm adding a new feature to my weekly report — my golf score! While this will be of little interest to most, I'm doing so with the hope it will inspire me to improve. Time will tell. I'll include my score under the "Lighter Side of Political Economy," which some say is the first thing they read.” (Kind of like Street Talk.)

GVSU talent stays to play

Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas made his annual trek to City Hall last week and told commissioners the school has turned into a graduating machine.

Haas said more than 5,000 students received their degrees in December and April, ranging from the traditional-aged grad to a 65-year-old woman.

Haas also said 84 percent of the grads found work in the state — 80 percent of them in West Michigan. “Stability is what we’re striving for and I think we’ve achieved that,” he said.

Haas, who is in his eighth year as GVSU president, said the new Seidman Center is operational and the school will hold a formal dedication in the fall.

But Haas also pointed out that GVSU sits at 10th from the bottom for state funding of the 13 public universities.

“For every $1 the state invests, there is a $25 return. Try to get that from your 401(k),” he said. “(But) our financial ratios are very solid as we move forward. The donor community has believed in our mission for many, many years. For us, the future looks bright.”

Tree City USA

City Public Service Director James Hurt and City Forester Tyler Stevenson told city commissioners the Arbor Day Foundation named Grand Rapids Tree City USA for the 15th consecutive year.

Every year the city’s Forestry Department designates a tree as the city’s official tree, which forces the mayor to go out on a limb.

“I’ll have to find that tree and hug it,” said Mayor George Heartwell.

It’s not the paychecks

Somebody is making a ton of money in the health care industry — or are they?

One may suspect it’s the high-tech machines and salaries of doctors, hospital administrators, pharmaceutical professionals and health insurance executives that have made U.S. health care the most expensive on the planet.

Well, now we know they are innocent. It would appear the culprits are outmoded pagers.

A study done by the Ponemon Institute in Traverse City suggests the use of pagers and other outdated communication technologies decreases health care professionals’ productivity and increases the time it takes to discharge a patient, costing U.S. hospitals more than $8.3 billion annually.

The survey was commissioned by Imprivata, a provider of health care IT security solutions, which issued a news release stating a survey of 577 health care professionals reveals that doctors, nurses and other caregivers waste more than 45 minutes per day as a result of inefficient communication systems, “costing the average U.S. hospital nearly $1 million annually. In addition, similar communications deficiencies increase patient discharge times, costing the average hospital more than $550,000 per year in lost revenue,” the survey said.

“Our research uncovered several sobering realities about the negative impacts of antiquated communication technologies and security policies on a hospital’s bottom line as well as on doctor productivity,” said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute.

“For instance, doctors say they spend only about 45 percent of their time actually interfacing with patients, in large part because they must deal with inefficient communications technologies such as pagers. Outmoded technologies also contribute significantly to increased patient discharge times, which average about 101 minutes. This time could be cut significantly through the use of smartphones and secure text messaging, but these technologies remain, for the most part, unused in hospitals because of the restrictive nature of security policies and challenging regulatory compliance requirements.”

Ponemon found the primary reason for wasted time “is the inefficiency of pagers (52 percent of survey respondents), followed by the lack of Wi-Fi availability (39 percent), the inadequacy of email (38 percent) and the inability to use text messaging (36 percent).”

Feelin’ Epic

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce announced the winners of its six Epic Awards last week, representing an “entrepreneurial, progressive, innovative and collaborative culture” that sets them apart.

The winner of the Small Business of the Year Award — i3 Business Solutions owner Michael Ritsema — received his crystal award and turned to the audience to say, “We should line up every business owner in the state of Michigan (who survived the recession) and give them all an award.”

Kelly LeCoy, Uptown Kitchen inventor, received the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award; Encompass LLC, founded by Alison Brown, was the named Woman-Owned Business of the Year; and Jim Roberts Enterprises LLC., won the award for Minority-Owned Business of the Year. The Nonprofit of the Year was presented to Habitat for Humanity, and the Excellence in Business Award was presented to Kent District Library.

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