Category Archives: Advocacy

Parking System Changes in the City of Grand Rapids

Parking is only one part of the overall mobility solution that is necessary to serve the future of the City. The City’s Mobile GR and Parking Services Department continues to evolve to support both the growth in demand for parking and mobility. The year ahead presents an opportunity to not only continue to support the operations, maintenance, enforcement and expansion of parking, but to provide support for additional mobility solutions.

The City’s parking system is currently at about 95 percent capacity of available monthly permit parking. Monthly spaces are currently only available in surface lots served by the Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH). We continue to have ample parking to support continued growth in visitors, special events and residential parking. To address current challenges, the City implemented a number of parking management changes on September 1, 2016:

  • Improvements to mobility options including expanded DASH and the fare less Silver Line in Downtown
  • On and off-street rate changes
  • Expanding parking supply

However, there remains a need to implement strategic additions to the current parking supply.

On Monday, July 24, the City broke ground on a new 300 space surface parking lot across from the Downtown Market. This is private property that the City will be improving and leasing to address parking challenges. The City will continue work on additional surface parking expansion with additional projects planned for construction in spring of 2018. We’re also exploring structured parking facilities as part of public/private development partnerships. A new 750 to 900 space parking ramp proposed as part of a private development on City and DDA owned property is scheduled to begin construction by the end of the calendar year. The City will retain a lease on 300 parking cards for commuter parking.

The City is also using parking analytics and new technology to explore ways to optimize current parking facilities:

  • Deploying technology to allow for new parking programs in facilities like nights and weekends, residential programs, and student and event employee parking
  • Implementing an online permit system to improve the customer experience and allow use of some on-street parking to be converted to permit parking

These will be deployed later this fall and add hundreds of more parking spaces to the inventory.

The City continues to evolve and implement new mobility initiatives. The City Commission recently approved $200,000 to support a new Transportation Solutions program. In partnership with the Chamber and DGRI, this program will invest resources in mobility solutions to manage demand for parking like:

  • Transit accessible, lower-cost remote parking on DASH or other transit routes
  • Carshare, carpooling and bikeshare
  • Other employer-driven programs like subsidized transit passes and parking cash out

We are committed to continue to address mobility challenges. The City is currently conducting a commuter survey in partnership with the Chamber to better understand how employees use the current parking system, and help create solutions for any challenges. We ask you to please complete the survey and share it with your employees. Data collected will be used create a clearer picture of commuting, inform discussions on where and how to add additional parking capacity, assess demand for potential services such as car-share, and guide enhancements to DASH/transit options.

Take the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/parkingandmobility

 

We have the recipe for a longer life

What are you doing to live a longer life? It’s easy to do.

There are simple things you can do every day to set yourself up to live life to the fullest and achieve the longest life possible. At the Health Care Summit on June 16 (register here!), Tony Buettner from the Blue Zones Project will be joining us to discuss what we can do as a community, and individually, to improve our health and lower health care costs.

To get you thinking about how daily activities can impact your life-span, we’ve put the Blue Zones Power 9 principles in action. The Power 9 tips for longevity make it easy to make positive behavioral changes. You can make your home and work place your own personal Blue Zone.

Join us at the Health Care Summit on June 16.

This is just the beginning of the chance for a longer life. At the Health Care Summit, you’ll join community members and local leaders to discuss how West Michigan can add years to your life. Blue Zones Project expert Tony Buettner will share the Secrets to a Longer Life. Don’t miss it.

Register today!

The first things you should do is pause for three minutes and take the vitality test found here. The test will show you how many years you can add to your life by adopting the simple changes outlined in your personalized improvement plan. Once you have your plan, look at the Power 9 list. Which three can you implement today? Start small and pick the easiest ones. To make them a habit, wait 12 weeks before adding the next three.

Longevity: The Power 9

The Power Nine covers the following life domains: What to do to optimize your lifestyle for a longer, healthier life; how to think; how to eat; and how to build social relationships that support your good habits.

  • Move Naturally: You don’t have to exercise in a gym to see results. By working natural exercise into your daily routine, you’ll receive the benefit without the hassle. Park on a higher floor, ditch your riding lawn mower, and hide your TV remote.
  • Purpose: Do you know your purpose? You should. Being cognizant of your purpose adds 7 years to your life. Get started by creating a personal mission statement. Why do you get up in the morning? What is truly important to you?
  • Down Shift: Stress is a killer. Force yourself to take mental and physical breaks. Use this time to meet with friends, family, or to spend time alone. Find what helps you relieve stress and anxiety and allow yourself to take a break.
  • 80% Rule: Feel full? Stop eating! When you feel 80% full, push the plate away. Eating the extra 20% could be the difference between losing and gaining weight.
  • Plant Slant: They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. In truth, a plant-based diet adds years to your life. Fill up on soy products, olive oil, and vegetables. We aren’t saying go full veggie, but limit your intake of meat to 3-4 ounces five times a month.
  • Wine @ 5: You read that right. 1-2 glasses of wine with friends and food will do your body and mind good.
  • Belong: Attending faith-based services four times a month will add 4-14 years to your life. Not religious? Find a non-denominational community. Sharing common ideals, feeling togetherness, and even the act of singing hymns will enhance your physical and mental being.
  • Loved Ones First: Where does your family fall on your priorities list? What about your grandparents? Investing in your loved ones, young and old, will add years to their life and yours.
  • Right Tribe: We live longer with a little help from our friends. Healthy behavior is contagious. Long-lived people choose friends or were born into circles that impact their behavior in a positive way.

To make it easy, we’ve created a recipe for the perfect blue zone day.

6 a.m. Wake up and remember your purpose. Really! Think about what you’ll do today to feed your purpose. Make your breakfast. This should be the biggest meal of the day. You’ll need that energy. Hand grind your coffee for a little exercise. Hold the bacon.

7 a.m. Get you and your family out the door. Walk or ride your bike to work. If you are driving, park on a higher level or at the back of the parking lot. Don’t forget to hydrate!

8 a.m. Look at your work load. Build in time to rest and destress throughout the day. This should be the first time you look at your cell phone for the day.

10 a.m. Take a five minute break. Get outside and soak up some sun. Have a handful of nuts. Drink a large glass of water.

12 p.m. Grab your co-workers and eat a small plant-based meal. Include a dash of olive oil and soy for protein. Relax and take your time. Stop eating when you’re 80% full. Take a ten minute walk after you’ve eaten.

1 p.m. Once back at your desk, reassess your work load.

3 p.m. Make a cup of herbal tea and call a relative. Make plans to see them in the upcoming week.

5 p.m. Meet your friends for happy hour. Have a glass (or 2) of wine and connect with your group. Unplug. Do. Not. Look. At. Your. Cell. Phone. Seriously, don’t.

6 p.m. Time to go home. Don’t let traffic get you down. Here are some tips. Think about what you did today to serve your purpose. Enjoy a plant-based meal with your family. Encourage conversation and connection at the dinner table.

7 p.m. Take an after dinner walk or bike ride with your family. Cement healthy behaviors and make exercise accessible and fun. When you get home, put that cell phone away for the night.

8 p.m. Meditate. Whether you do yoga, stretching, or simply sitting without noise, take time to listen to your inner monologue. How do you feel? How did the day go? What can you try tomorrow to improve?

9 p.m. Start your bedtime routine. No cell phone. No TV. No blue lights shinning on your face in the dark. Make your plant-based lunch for the next day. Quiet your mind and prepare to sleep. Think about your purpose.

Health Care Summit focus gets national attention

On June 16, we welcome Tony Buettner to share his expert knowledge about the Blue Zones Project at the Health Care Summit.

A Blue Zone is a region that produces a high number of people who live to be 100 years old. Blue Zones look at communities from a system-level, determining how to redesign and refocus a city around what matters to the health and happiness of the citizens that live there.

At the Summit, we’ll discuss what becoming a Blue Zones community could mean for our region, our life spans, and our health care costs.

Register for the Health Care Summit today!

See for yourself.

Blue Zones was featured on the Today show on May 30 and 31. Learn about what makes a Blue Zone in this short segment.

Dan Buettner, Tony’s brother and Blue Zone expert, brought Today reporters to a Blue Zone in Costa Rica to show them the Blue Zone lifestyle first hand.

Change your life and business. Join us on June 16 at the Health Care Summit.

Switch Celebrates Grand Opening of West Michigan’s Newest Data Center

On May 10, new Chamber member Switch celebrated its grand opening in West Michigan after renovating the old Steelcase pyramid for the past year. The grand opening marks the beginning of phase one for the largest data center east of the Mississippi River.

Switch has already spent $50 million to transform the pyramid’s 250,000 square feet, and so far it has employed more than 700 people – with almost 99 percent being Michiganders.
The grand opening was celebrated with Switch Founder and CEO Rob Roy, Governor Rick Snyder, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, and West Michigan senators and representatives. Chamber staff was also in attendance for the celebration and tours of the newly remodeled center.

About Switch

Switch was founded in 2000 as a global technology solutions company. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Switch has recently begun expansions throughout the United States and world to better serve their clients. Founder and CEO Rob Roy has developed more than 260 patent and patent-pending claims for data center designs that are central to their operations and service to clients.

Earlier this year, Switch was awarded a perfect score on Greenpeace’s Clicking Clean Report – celebrating their commitment to renewable energy – making the company the first multi-tenant data center provider in the world to do so.

How we got here

At the end of 2015, the Michigan Legislature passed a package of bills to support our state’s growing high-tech industry. The Chamber fought for the passage of this legislation in Lansing, as it reformed Michigan’s tax structure for data centers in Michigan to be competitive with other states.

Advancements in technology have fundamentally changed the way business is conducted. As the business climate continues to transform and rely more on technology, Michigan needed a tax model that supports innovation and keeps Michigan competitive for the digital era.

“The Chamber is thankful the legislature saw this opportunity to make our tax climate more attractive. When an opportunity of this magnitude comes along, we must seriously consider it. Other states have already taken the initiative in hopes of attracting this growing industry and companies like Switch,” said Rick Baker, President & CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We look forward to continue to work with the legislature to keep Michigan attractive for the industries of the future.”

The changes to Michigan’s tax structure exempts data centers serving collocated businesses from sales and use taxes on data center equipment. This change provided a number of Michigan businesses with tax relief, and also made Michigan attractive for Switch to invest in and move to.

Switch’s move to West Michigan put our state on the map in the tech industry, setting the stage for increased investments and the attraction and retention of high-tech talent, as other companies are looking to our community and state.

What’s next?

In the future, Switch plans to open up the pyramid for an innovation center that the public, non-profits and startups will be able to benefit from. Switch has a similar facility at their Reno campus.

In addition to the future changes to the pyramid, the Switch campus is expected to be under development for the next 10 years, as several data center facilities are planned for the site. Development and permitting has already begun on the first 471,248 square foot Switch GRAND RAPIDS 1 data center on the property surrounding the pyramid.

Going forward, Switch anticipates more than $5 billion will be invested from Switch and its clients, and 1,000 jobs will be created within the first 10 years of operation at the 2 million-plus square foot facility.

The Grand Rapids Chamber is excited Switch has made West Michigan its new home and for the opportunities they bring to our region. Switch’s move is creating an environment for companies and industries to grow – diversifying our markets and economy, making Michigan a competitive place for future industries.

Projects of this size often serve as an anchor in a growing industry, providing immense benefits for talent attraction and retention and community growth. As Switch continues to invest in their campus and our communities, we are eager to see the impact they will have on our high-tech talent pipeline.

Grand Rapids Parking Conversation

Is Parking Cash Out Right For Your Business?
Upcoming April 19 Downtown Commuter Benefits Workshop

To further the understanding of the urgent need to address challenges related to monthly parking permits for businesses downtown, we’ve partnered with the City of Grand Rapids and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. to offer a FREE informational workshop on Parking Cash Out.

Parking Cash Out programs offer funds to employees in place of monthly parking permits. The employee is free to use these funds as they deem fit for their needs. This workshop will help businesses determine if the Parking Cash Out concept is right for their organization and provide plans on how to structure the program.

We are committed to ensuring parking and mobility is not a barrier to business and job growth in Grand Rapids. Employer-driven programs like Parking Cash Out can help make more efficient use of our existing public parking assets and offer interested employers greater flexibility in managing their growth.

When: Wednesday, April 19, 2017 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Where: Start Garden, 40 Pearl Street NW, Suite 200, Downtown Grand Rapids
Who Should Attend: Employers and human resource professionals in Downtown Grand Rapids who lease parking spaces and provide free of subsidized parking for their employees.
Register Now: Seating is limited. Simply send an email to rsvp@downtowngr.org to reserve your spot.

Chamber Provides City of Grand Rapids Entities with Parking Recommendations
Update from March 27

This week, Josh Lunger, Director of Government Affairs with the Grand Rapids Chamber, sent parking recommendations to the Mayor, City Commission, and key City staff. The Chamber supports an “all of the above” approach to mobility to ensure that monthly parking accessibility to downtown is never a significant obstacle to business and job growth.

See our parking recommendations.


The Parking Conversation Continues
Update from March 9 GR Parking Commission Meeting

We hear you. Last month’s parking open forum garnered a standing room only crowd and encouraged lively discussion regarding the parking concerns in downtown Grand Rapids. On the morning of March 9, Josh Lunger, Director of Government Affairs with the Grand Rapids Chamber, went in front of the Grand Rapids Parking Commission to continue the conversation.

While event and visitor parking remains readily accessible, the continued growth has created new pressures on the availability of monthly parking permits downtown. This is a good problem to have. It signifies that more people are visiting, working, and living downtown. But we also know that parking and mobility should not be a barrier to business growth.

Lunger urged the Parking Commission to recognize the urgency on the parking problem. The commission noted the addition of a 293 space surface lot on Ionia Ave. between McConnell St. and Logan St. across from the Downtown Market and 500 other mixed use parking solutions that may become available in the coming months. These spaces may help to alleviate some of the current parking pain.

Lunger reminded the Parking Commission to keep the Chamber as a resource and include us in the conversation. The Chamber can drive education, engagement, and communication surrounding the parking conversation with our members and business owners in Grand Rapids. We will continue to explore the conversation with business owners and give them voice at future meetings.


Parking is one of the top issues our members face
Updates from February 8th Parking Open Forum

The continued growth and vibrancy of Grand Rapids is creating increased parking pressures in the urban core, particularly for employee parking. At a standing-room-only parking meeting, members were able to engage with city staff and the Chamber about downtown parking, including the impact it has on business growth opportunities.

“I’m glad that we’re having this conversation [about parking], because it means we have a vibrant and growing downtown and city,” said Josh Lunger, Director of Government Affairs with the Grand Rapids Chamber.

Read more: Parking in Grand Rapids at 95% capacity

The Chamber is your advocate, and we look forward to working with you and other stakeholders, including City of Grand Rapids and DGRI, to advance solutions.

Send us your feedback and taking the parking survey!

Josh Lunger also joined Michael Patrick Shiels on Michigan’s Big Show on Tuesday morning. In preparation for the parking meeting, he talked about parking in Grand Rapids and what it means for downtown businesses and Chamber members.

GR Chamber and Metro Chambers head to Washington D.C.

Members of the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition took part in a fly-in this week focused on infrastructure, immigration, energy, trade including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and other issues impacting businesses and communities across the Midwest and Great Lakes.

Fifty-four meetings took place on Capitol Hill with legislators and committee staff as part of the annual event and included information on policy specifics and critical infrastructure projects for the region. Our collective voice is stronger together and as a region, the Great Lakes has a combined GDP of more than $5.7 trillion, making it the third largest economy in the world.

Specifically, Andy Johnston and Josh Lunger spoke with federal lawmakers on:

  • Transportation infrastructure including funding for a new Soo Lock, the Gordie Howe International Bridge, I-96 reconstruction and enhancement, and interchange improvements to serve business demand in Walker.

  • Immigration for highly skilled labor through the H1B visa program.

  • Support for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GRLI) including maintaining the current funding level of $300 million.

Other issues on the Chamber’s radar with federal lawmakers in Washington this week include tax reform, education policy and the changes to the Affordable Care Act.

Special thanks to Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Congressmen Bill Huizenga, Fred Upton, Mike Bishop, Paul Mitchell, Jack Bergman and Tim Walberg for meeting in person with the Chamber.

Talent Wanted: What everyone is saying, and what your Chamber is doing about it

Talent Wanted: What the Chamber is doing to help its members' talent needsFor the first time in recent history, members reported difficulty finding qualified talent as their top concern, surpassing the cost of health care which had been the top issue for the past four years. Seventy-two percent reported difficulty finding qualified applicants, up from 51% in 2014. Digging a little deeper, the availability of skilled labor and general talent retention were noted as two of the top obstacles to business growth.

Talent is not a new initiative for the Chamber, but there is added urgency to addressing our region’s immediate talent shortages while also ensuring we have a qualified workforce for the future. In the survey, members identified the most difficult positions to fill, highlighting positions from skilled trades, to STEM careers, to positions that require advanced degrees.

The Chamber’s advocacy efforts are linked directly to what we are hearing from our members – fighting for programs and initiatives at the State level to address our immediate and future talent needs.

Short-term Initiative

  • Skilled Trades Training Program (Going Pro): The Chamber is advocating for a significant increase of funding for this program which provides grants to employers to upskill their current workforce or new hires. The Chamber is pleased to see Governor Snyder’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget recommendation included a $10 million increase, and will be asking the Legislature to confirm this recommendation. These grant dollars may be used in a variety of fields, including professional trades, information technology, health care and other high-demand jobs.
  • Career and Technical Education Equipment Upgrades: To address talent development, the Chamber is also supportive of Governor Snyder’s recommendation of $20 million to support (CTE) Career Technology Education program equipment upgrades.

Mid-term Initiatives

  • 21st Century Skills/High School Graduation Flexibility: The Chamber has been working alongside the West Michigan Talent Triangle for the passage of House Bill 4114, which seeks to provide high schoolers greater flexibility in the courses they must take to graduate. This bill would allow students the flexibility to take rigorous courses in computer science, coding, CTE, foreign language or the arts.
  • Michigan State Standards: There have been some recent efforts to repeal Michigan’s State Standards, but the Chamber is fiercely advocating alongside our community education partners for their continuation. These standards set the foundation of what Michigan’s student should know at each grade level, and are a critical component to ensure our students can graduate college and career ready.

Long-term Initiative

  • Early Childhood Education: The Chamber is a vocal supporter of Michigan’s funding for early childhood education and is asking the Legislature to continue the funding to ensure Michigan is a no-wait state and our children can start their education with high quality programming.

Every year, the Chamber conducts an annual survey of members to better understand the issues you’re facing. Nearly 600 members responded to the survey this year with more than two-thirds of the responses from small and medium-sized businesses.

More than 93% of Chamber members reported a favorable or very favorable perception of West Michigan’s business climate. Our community and region has seen great growth coming out of the recession, but we are not without some challenges.

Want to read the Chamber membership survey results? Please visit grandrapids.org/government-affairs-survey


Questions, comments or ideas of how to address talent needs? Please contact Joshua Lunger at or 616.771.0336.

First Breakfast with Legislators – find out what you missed!

The Chamber held its first Breakfast with Legislators of 2017 on February 27. It has become a tradition to kickoff of the series at The Rapid and we are grateful for their continued sponsorship of the February breakfast.

These events are an important opportunity to engage lawmakers with the business community and there was a lot to discuss – including the previous week’s effort by the State House to roll back the income tax.

INCOME TAX
The hot topic of the meeting was the failed voted on an income tax reduction from 4.25% to 3.9% pushed for in the State House by Speaker Tom Leonard. House lawmakers in attendance voted both for and against the measure which was voted down 52-55.

March_BWL_RoomWhile some may have expected fireworks, lawmakers on both sides were not that far apart. Case in point: Representative Rob VerHeulen and Representative Chris Afendoulis.

VerHeulen voted for the measure after working to lessen the impact on the budget.

“I had concerns with the original bill. I think taking it to zero without a plan to replace it would jeopardize our ability to provide essential state services,” said VerHeulen, R-Walker. “But I support it going to 3.9%. This will ensure that we will not jeopardize our constitutional mandate to balance the budget. I’ve always been motivated to stretch on behalf of the taxpayers.”

Representative Afendoulis, R-Grand Rapids Township, opposed the measure but indicated how close he was to those that voted for it. He shared VerHeulen’s concern about the impact the cut would have on the ability of the state to fund critical priorities like roads, talent investment and pay down long-term debt saying.

“This plan will jeopardize our state’s bond rating and will create a structural deficit in the general fund of over $2 billion by 2022,” he said.

Other House members at the breakfast weighed in including Representatives Tommy Brann, Holly Hughes, and Steve Johnson. Ultimately, the accelerated process, coupled with not simultaneously putting forth what programs would be cut to keep the budget balanced led to the bill’s defeat.

The aftermath of the vote will likely shade policy-making in Lansing over the short term while the House works to continue to move Michigan forward.

STATE BUDGET
March_BWL_PanelA question was posed to State Senators Peter MacGregor and Tonya Schuitmaker on the impact President Trump’s budget priorities would have on the State’s budget.

The Senators pointed out that they can’t build a budget on what may happen and will continue to work to have a budget passed by June 1. That being said, they anticipate having to come back later in the year if the federal government moves to block or grant Medicaid to the states or requires state matching dollars for infrastructure projects.

MISCELLANEOUS
Discussion also focused on: the Gordie Howe International Bridge (going forward), the Soo Locks (which needs the federal government to step up with dollars and Chamber staff is headed to DC to lobby for it), a possible sales tax on services (not going anywhere), and redistricting and election law changes.

CONGESTION & PARKING
It was also mentioned at the breakfast that Grand Rapids has made the list (89) of top 100 US cities for congestion and the cost. A few years ago, some supposed that the drop-off in vehicles miles traveled was a sign of younger people opting for multiple modes. We now know it was tightly tied to the economic downturn.

People are driving more than ever. Witness the I-96/I-196 lane merge any morning or evening.

March_BWL_AudienceThere is a need for an all-of-the-above solution to mobility – strong public transportation like The Rapid; transportation network companies (ex. Uber and Lyft); reliable transit and rail, forward thinking and preparation for connected and automated vehicles; and an understanding that most of us will choose our personal vehicle for many years to come.

That being said, downtown parking has been highlighted as a hindrance to member growth and the Chamber is working on a set of short- and long-term recommendations with the City of Grand Rapids to advance solutions.

GIVE IT A TRY
Our relentless, member-driven advocacy supports businesses of all sizes and types. If you have never been to one of these breakfasts, give it a try! Hear from those that represent you and make your voice heard. And if you have thoughts on these topics or others, let us know!

Questions? Contact Andy Johnston, Vice President of Government Affairs at 616.771.0335 or johnstona@grandrapids.org.

Governor’s Budget Focuses on Talent & Infrastructure

Today, Governor Rick Snyder presented his 2017-18 Fiscal Year budget recommendation, highlighting initiatives to support Michigan’s talent and infrastructure needs.

“Talent is the top issue for the West Michigan business community and we are excited to see that priority reflected throughout the Governor’s budget,” said Andy Johnston, Vice President of Government Affairs.

“Michigan’s economy continues to gain momentum, but we must address the challenge companies have finding talent with the skills they need.”

“Most notably, we are thrilled the Governor recommends a $10 million increase to the Going Pro program, also known as the Skilled Trades Training Fund. This market-driven program has helped ensure Michigan employers have the talent they need to compete and grow, and individuals have the skills for in-demand jobs.”

Read more: Grand Rapids Chamber gets wish list in Governor Snyder’s budget

“The talent issue requires short-term and long-term solutions, which is why we are also pleased to see the Governor recommend $20 million for schools, intermediate school districts and community colleges to purchase career technology education (CTE) equipment.”

“We look forward to working with the Senate and House to continue the talent discussion and adoption of these two key funds that will allow our residents the opportunities to succeed in the workforce.”

As part his budget presentation, the Governor also emphasized the importance of ensuring a strong infrastructure, highlighting the investment in roads and calling for $20 million to take the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission report forward.

“Proper investment in infrastructure is crucial to Michigan’s economic growth and remains one of the Chamber’s top public policy issues,” continued Johnston. “This is critical to the economic vitality of our region and state. From well-maintained roads to strong sewer and drinking water systems, we must ensure we have the infrastructure available to support our communities and businesses.”

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 grandrapids.org/government-affairs-survey.

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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 www.grandrapids.org.