Chamber Survey: Health Care and Talent Top Concerns for West Michigan Businesses

Grand Rapids, MI—Results of a public policy survey released today by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce show the cost of health care continues to be the top concern for members heading into 2016 for the fourth year in a row. Difficulty finding qualified talent was cited as the number two concern for the second year in a row. The ranking of the two issues are much closer than in previous years.

The annual survey was completed by nearly 700 members.

gr chamber results“The feedback we received from our members is critical to inform our efforts to eliminate obstacles to business success,” said Rick Baker, President and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. “Momentum continues to build in the Grand Rapids business community, and we need to continue to focus on policy that supports a healthy business climate. These results reinforce the work we are doing on both health care and talent.”

This year the Chamber survey dug deeper into health care and talent to better understand member concerns.

On the health care front: If costs were contained, 57 percent reported that they would increase wages and 34 percent reported they would hire more employees. There was also strong support for increased price transparency and reducing the burden of compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“The message from members has been clear and consistent on health care. In 2016, the Chamber will remain fiercely opposed to additional health care mandates and efforts to extend or increase the uncompetitive Health Insurance Claims Assessment Tax,” commented Andy Johnston, vice president of Government & Corporate Affairs for the Chamber. “Lansing policymakers need to take note of the impact this continues to have on job providers.”

On the talent front: 80 percent responded that their firm80 percent business growth hired and/or added new positions in the last 12 months due to business growth.

Businesses continue to struggle to find qualified applicants, however, and responses on that issue increased from 51 percent in 2014 to 61 percent this year. As a result, members noted that they used multiple strategies to fill open positions:

  • 71 percent increased their recruiting efforts
  • 32 percent increased wages to attract more qualified talent
  • 32 percent trained current staff to fill the position
  • 31 percent hired less qualified workers
  • 27 percent increased overtime for current employees

Thirty-one percent responded that positions were not filled because they could not find qualified talent. When it comes to finding qualified employees, social media replaced recruiting events as the top tool.

“We remain committed to addressing these issues from a policy perspective,” said Allie Bush, former Director of Government Affairs. “We will continue to advocate on behalf of our members in support of creating a strong talent system from early childhood education to the K-12 system as well as programs like Michigan’s Skilled Trades Training Fund that raise the capabilities of our existing workforce.”

On the local level, members supported funding for infrastructure and core services as priorities.

“The Chamber will continue working with our local government partners to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent effectively,” said Josh Lunger, director of Government Affairs. “Michigan’s economic recovery has taken some pressure off local government budgets, but wise investment remains critical to help us address legacy costs and better prepare us for the next rainy day.”

Other top issues that garnered support in the survey include: access to primary care for employees, affordable energy, invasive species, high school graduation rates, skilled-trades training, and public transit.

A summary of the survey can be found at


About the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce leads the business community in creating a dynamic, top-of-mind West Michigan region. Together with over 2,500 member businesses (80% of which are small businesses with fewer than 50 employees), we work to expand the information, influence, and access required to actively encourage entrepreneurial growth and community leadership. We offer the connections, resources, and insights needed to develop strong leaders, engage a diverse workforce, foster an inclusive and welcoming community, and advance a vibrant business environment that nurtures economic prosperity for all. Learn more at