The Chamber is proud of its role protecting your business’ bottom line by advocating on your behalf to create the best possible economic climate at the local, state and federal levels.
The Chamber conducts an annual survey of its membership to better understand the issues West Michigan businesses are facing. Nearly 600 members responded this year with more than two-thirds of the responses from small and medium sized businesses. This information directly supports the Chamber’s member-driven advocacy plan and provides the policy team the tools to make their voices heard in the halls of government.
After ending the 2015-2016 legislative session with major legislative wins – energy reform, allowing ride-sharing companies to compete in Michigan, and flexibility for Michigan’s community college districts – the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is looking forward to turning the business community’s top priorities into action during the 2017-2018 legislative session.
“The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is impacting the issues that matter to West Michigan businesses of all sizes and types”, said Rick Baker, President and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. “Hearing directly from our members is a critical aspect to shaping a business climate that will sustain growth in the region.”
The 2017 survey shows finding qualified talent as the top concern for the first time, surpassing the cost of health care which had been the top issue for the last four years. Despite the concerns expressed in the survey, more than 93% of Chamber members reported a favorable or very favorable perception of West Michigan’s business climate.
The Chamber also dug deeper to better understand the specific obstacles impeding business growth. Availability of skilled labor, general talent retention, and federal government regulations were cited as the three top impediments to business sustainability or growth.
“The issues identified in the survey and through our policy development processes shape the core of our aggressive policy agenda at the Chamber,” said Andy Johnston, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Chamber. “The influence our region has on the policy direction for the rest of the state continues to rise. As leading advocates, we can help ensure Michigan’s tomorrows are better than today.”
On the talent front, over 77% responded that their firm hired and/or added new positions in the last 12 months due to business growth. This percentage is consistent with the growth trend the Chamber has seen over the past 3 years. However, 72% noted difficulty finding qualified applicants, steadily increasing from 51% in 2014.
“Our community is in dire need of talent to build on our momentum, and we must have short-term and long-term plans to improve our talent system,” said Allie Bush, former Director of Government Affairs. “We are doubling down our efforts to make this a reality on the policy front and in the programs we offer to our members. We will continue to advocate for a strong talent pipeline from early childhood through lifelong learning.”
“To address this need, we will call on the legislature to double the funding for the Skilled Trades Training Fund,” continued Bush. “This program is employer-driven and meets the needs of today and tomorrow.”
Health care and its rising cost has been a top issue for Chamber members for the last decade. If costs were contained, nearly 50% reported that they would increase wages, 28% would invest in expansion and 24% reported that they would hire more employees.
“The message from members has been clear and consistent on health care. Policymakers need to take note of the impact this continues to have on job providers and workforce, especially given the current discussion in Washington” commented Johnston. “At the state level, the Chamber will remain fiercely opposed to additional health care mandates and fight for the repeal of the uncompetitive Health Insurance Claims Assessment Tax.”
At the local level, issues related to parking were highlighted in the comments of many members.
“The growth of our city, is creating new pressures on the movement of goods and people, including the availability of parking, particularly for employees,” said Josh Lunger, Director of Government Affairs. “The Chamber will be working with our members, the City of Grand Rapids and other stakeholders to ensure there is robust engagement with the business community as we plan for the future of our core city.”
Other top issues and impediments to business sustainability and growth include: reducing the regulatory burden – including the burden of compliance with the Affordable Care Act, real estate costs, local road infrastructure, the economic outlook and the tax burden.
Click here for the full data set from the 2017 Government Affairs Survey.