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Wednesday, 04 January 2012 19:00

Crystal Ball 2012: More on Small Biz

Written by  MiBiz Staff
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Carol Lopucki
Director, Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center

I believe our economy will continue to inch — and I do mean inch — forward in 2012. However, the inching forward by small businesses — my world — will be dependent upon the financial health of consumers. Translation: Job security and home ownership are critical to this financial health.

Approximately 75 percent of SBTDC customers are service and retail businesses. A number of the manufacturers we serve are those under financial duress. These service and retail companies are reliant upon a confident customer base of spenders. Whether these businesses are thriving or struggling is directly related to the stability of the buyers of their specific product or service. It is imperative that small businesses know their customers and have a solid understanding of their financials in any economy, but in this one, it is extremely important.

Rob Fowler
President, Small Business Association of Michigan

I’m feeling more upbeat about Michigan’s economic future than I have in a decade.

SBAM’s semi-annual Barometer survey of 600 small business owners this fall found that 86 percent of small business owners say their business outlook for the next six months is good or somewhat good. They anticipate the enactment and energizing impact of business tax reform, and a fair percentage of them say they are already planning to hire more workers. I also talk everyday with entrepreneurs, and I’m amazed at the number of them who tell me that, because they’ve spent the last few years getting their operations lean, mean and efficient, they are now thriving and looking forward to expansion and job growth.

Their optimism is being driven by a number of factors. First of all, the business tax reform … is a jolt of energy aimed directly at the small businesses. It puts more money in the hands of entrepreneurs, who will use this tax savings to invest in their operations, their workforce and their communities.

Secondly, small businesses recognize that they finally have strong allies in the governor’s office, the state House and the state Senate who understand entrepreneurs and are willing to make the tough votes that support small business job creation. These lawmakers have demonstrated their vision of a better Michigan by simplifying our tax structure, working for a common sense regulatory environment and supporting “economic gardening” that builds homegrown small businesses and employment.

Elissa Hillary
Executive Director,
Local First

I predict that 2012 will be a year of change. As turbulence in the global economy continues, individuals and businesses will empower themselves by investing their resources in their local economies. We can already see this shift happening.

In early 2011, locally owned businesses across the country reported a sales increase of 2.1 percent over the previous year. The average increase was 19.1 percent in West Michigan. This evidence shows that consumers are redirecting their money to place-based businesses within their communities.

In the past 10 years, the number of farmers markets in Michigan grew exponentially – from 90 in 2001 to more than 250 in 2011. As concerns about product quality continue to rise, consumers will increasingly become more interested in the freshness, flavor and security that flows from knowing the people who grow their food.

In February, West Michigan philanthropist Rick DeVos launched 5x5 Night, and in July, the MEDC announced that it would invest $25 million in Michigan organizations that support the growth of start-up businesses. As the need to reinvent our economy and the demand for local goods increases, support for entrepreneurs will continue to rise.

These trends only strengthen the need for Local First’s leadership. In 2012, we will continue to serve as a connector between locally owned businesses and those that benefit from their existence.

Sonja Johnson
Executive Director,
VanAndel Global Trade Center

International trade in 2012 should be strong for Michigan businesses. Never before has there been so much focus at both the national and state level to assist companies to engage in global trade. The current U.S. dollar exchange rate is also helping to make Michigan goods and services more affordable for global customers. It is great to have the level of support to encourage businesses to grow or to start selling products and services outside the U.S., where nearly 95 percent of customers reside. The National Export Initiative announced in January 2010 has a goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years and increasing jobs within the U.S. by 2 million. To reach this ambitious goal, U.S. exports will need to expand from $1.57 trillion in 2009 to $3.14 trillion by 2015. According to the U.S. International Trade Administration data, there are approximately 17,000 small and medium enterprises — companies with fewer than 500 employees — in Michigan with existing sales outside the U.S. Michigan received $1.5 million in Small Business Administration funding through the State Trade Export Promotion. STEP was awarded to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to assist Michigan small businesses either start exporting or grow existing exports. STEP will run through September 2012 with the potential to be extended for an additional two years by SBA. Van Andel Global Trade Center expects 2012 to be a positive year for Michigan international trade.

Cecile Fehsenfeld
President,
Schuler Books and Music

Continued uncertainty. We are in a unique industry that is in a lot of change right now anyway. The economy is another piece of what we’re (dealing) with right now. We have an economy that is uncertain with an industry that is undergoing a tremendous amount of change. I see the next year being one of adapting and working our way through the economy.

Read 1385 times Last modified on Monday, 13 August 2012 16:08

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