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Posted on Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

Michigan's business climate has taken a turn for the better

By Guest Column

(Editor's note: This story was written by Ann Arbor resident Robert H. Holland, chairman and CEO of business group Vistage Michigan.)

We have ample reasons to be optimistic about the Michigan economy. While it may take a while longer for it to play out, as our nation continues its recovery from a deep and prolonged recession, we are making substantial progress in improving Michigan’s overall business climate. In fact, Michigan recently enjoyed the largest improvement in its jobless rate of any other state in the country.


Ann Arbor resident and Vistage Michigan CEO Robert Holland

For the first time in many years, we have an outstanding alignment between insights and legislative initiatives in Lansing and the real needs of businesses of all sizes - our state’s real job and wealth creators.

Their achievements include a balanced state budget, without resorting to any one-time fixes; putting municipalities and the needs of children ahead of special interest groups; and creating a sound environment in which businesses can compete. The latter is highlighted by a new business tax system, which replaces the onerous, unfair and anti-competitive Michigan Business Tax.

While being equitable to Class C corporations, the new system, in eliminating the double taxation previously imposed on individual businesses, partnerships and LLCs, will be a great boost to small- and mid-sized entities and professional corporations.

Coming from a business background, Gov. Rick Snyder gets it. Municipalities and schools must be run efficiently. Workers must possess the skills and motivations required of the modern, global economy. We can’t invest well for the future while mired in past debt. Businesses must have sound reasons for coming to or staying in Michigan.

An improved economy is already apparent. Manufacturing has rebounded with the Big Three and their suppliers returning to solid employment levels. These entities are profitable and making substantial investments in our area in new or expanded operations, which also boosts feeder businesses like health care and personal services. Educational leaders like the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University are unleashing new businesses from their research and consultancy activities that look to “stick” beyond the startup stage, including in medical devices and alternative energy.

As a result, businesses in Michigan have grown over the last 12 months. Our Vistage Michigan members, alone, experienced an average 5.8 percent growth in revenues, year over year for the last five years. This rate of growth has actually been sustained through 2008 and 2009 and will continue through 2012 and 2013, if current economic projections hold.

While the Occupy movement grabs headlines, it is important to note that many responsible small- to mid-sized business owners in Michigan have exercised restraint during difficult times, tightening their own belts in concert with their staffs. These leaner organizations are prepared to grow meaningfully as our economy once again expands.

The recovery period for recessions has averaged 12 to 15 months in recent decades; the 2001 recession being an exception, at 39 months. Until now. We project that it will take until the end of 2013, more than five years, to achieve 85 percent of the 2007 employment levels.

Regardless, Michigan added 28,000 jobs last year. Economists are projecting 32,000 new jobs in 2012 and another 37,000 new jobs in 2013, for a three-year total of about 100,000 new jobs. These include solid positions in health care, training, business services, consulting, engineering development, product design and alternative energy.

As the new taxing principles kick in, this business growth will be augmented by commercial and residential construction, which is starting to move into development and financing pipelines, including in Livingston, Washtenaw and Oakland counties. With job growth and improved discretionary income, retail and other secondary services should pick up by the end of this period.

To exploit this improved economic climate, business leaders should:

  • Invest in growth. Hire employees for future needs. Be confident and positive about moving ahead as a business.
  • Acquire equipment and technology, along with the people who are skilled in those technologies, to be more efficient, productive and change the way business is done.
  • Diversify product lines and markets. Some companies may be able to enhance the way they service their product lines, increasing competitiveness and net sales. Others have great products or services that could be expanded to new markets.
  • Learn how to deploy the new digital integrated marketing techniques, in order to reach new customers and markets.

With improved commercial lending sources for small- to mid-sized businesses, better schools, stable taxation and more productive government, buoyed by strength in automotive and emerging industries, Michigan can once again join the ranks of economic over-achievers. Let’s get to work.

Vistage Michigan is part of a chief executive organization, providing business leaders with access to new business perspectives, innovative strategies and actionable items for making better decisions and achieving better results. For more information on Vistage Michigan, call 586-443-5880 or visit


Horvath Marx

Sat, Feb 11, 2012 : 12:13 a.m.

Interesting. Mr. Holland makes no mention of the Obama administrations bailout of Detroit. I wonder what party Mr. Holland is a member of. Give me a break.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

He should send flowers to the president for his help in turning this economy around.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 2:06 a.m.

People commenting on this story are unrealistic. I don't consider myself to have any political affiliation but what Rick Snyder has done is right size years of kicking the can down the road and leaning too hard on businesses operating in Michigan. Although I don't agree with all the cuts/ new taxes, Michigan has lived high on the hog for many years spending more than it was taking in and living on the backs of the US Auto Industry and it's Michigan supplier base. In order to support a fat government we added an uncompetitive tax rate to the list of reasons not to do business in Michigan. Yes Rick Snyder has gotten too much credit for an improving auto industry but as a result of the business tax decrease he has helped placed Michigan in the category of "Business Friendly" which should compound the auto rebound, I've heard for years we cannot continue to be so reliant on the Auto Industry. I do find it somewhat unfortunate that states have to use lower tax rates to compete for large corporations but if that's going to be the status quo we need to follow other states in the Mid-West such as Wisconsin and Ohio who have made an effort to become more competitive. Take a look at the spending/revenue problem in California and appreciate the action that's been taken to prevent a similar situation here.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

A CEO says the business climate is looking up ... but at what cost? The supposed boon for businesses (which is largely imaginary, and exaggerated in this opinion piece solely to heap praise on Rick Snyder and his anti-worker policies) comes at the expense of our roads, schools, social programs, and infrastructure. Revenue that once helped us all — by funding those same roads, schools, social programs, and infrastructure — has been diverted to the corporate kleptocracy. The jobs that have been gained are in large part due to the federal government's rescue of the auto industry, which has had positive ripple effects across the state economy. Rick Snyder deserves no credit for that, though it's obvious that he and his businessman cronies will try to claim it as their own victory. Tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy are not the answer. More tax revenue, applied intelligently to crucial infrastructure projects and a legitimate re-investment in education, can create more and better jobs than lower corporate taxes ever will. Don't listen to the CEO cheerleaders of Snyder's regressive agenda.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

Businesses thrilled with their tax cuts paid for with cuts to education, cuts to higher education, seniors pension taxes, the poors safety net cuts, unemployment program cuts, workers comp injury program cuts, auto catastrophic injury cuts, increased taxes on ALL individuals, children and adult dependent partners of same sex State and municipal employees losing health benefits pending federal litigation, and other draconian cuts affecting everyone except businesses. Fortunately Snyder is benefitting from the manufacturing improvements related to the auto auto industry, saved by Obama, and the money that flows from there to other local businesses, saving other jobs in a positive economic cycle as shown by the national unemployment rate decreasing to 8.3%, where it was the month after Obama took office. Snyder has done nothing on jobs but take credit for what is happening everywhere and would have happened here without his billion dollar giveaway to business!


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 12:08 p.m.

Why are Governor Snyder's business buddies like this so overcome with glee? Big tax breaks, that's why. Big profits, that's why. Wealth & riches, that's why. Funded by retirees, the poor, non-profit agencies, the schools and income tax increases on all of us. Businesses know they can come to Michigan and take advantage of these friendly tax advantages at the expense of the rest of us, who will have noticeably less to live on (We'll really start feeling the sting of this in April, 2013, when we pay our much higher 2012 State of Michigan income tax bills). Retirees are already helping business out, paying millions in pension withholding taxes. So, if business owners like this are clicking their heels, break-dancing, high-fiving & moon-walking over their new, advantageous taxs breaks - it's easy to undestand why. Are there enough of these gleeful business people to outweigh the suffering the governor has in store for the rest of us? Tough gubernatorial decisions made for most of us, but obviously not for the favored few . . .


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 10:55 a.m.

This sounds like an advertisement.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

It is an advertisement - how does allow a sales pitch with business contact info at the end to be posted like this ?

Linda Peck

Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 11:42 p.m.

It does seem to be picking up and this is always great news. We need to take the initiative and create new businesses and manufacturing.


Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 11:20 p.m.

How could it get any worse than it already is?