Economy
12:53 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

West Michigan economy in the middle of “significant turnaround”

The annual West Michigan Economic forecast was held today in Grand Rapids. Hari Singh is an economist at Grand Valley State University. He expects employment will increase 2% in the region this year . He says the bulk of the jobs will be in the health and education fields, but also research and development for alternative energy.

 “Right now it’s a preoccupation with developed countries, 30 or 40 years down the road it’s going to be a preoccupation of developing countries. So this whole idea of alternative energy innovation, it’s not going to go away. It’s going to accelerate.”

Singh’s survey shows 60% of West Michigan employers expect to hire this year. That’s twice as many as last year.

He anticipates higher sales and exports in West Michigan, in addition to more jobs. Exports have continued to grow in the region as the value of the U.S. dollar declines.

Singh says all of the good indicators could be thrown off if the federal government can’t stabilize its finances. Singh told business leaders it’s not an elephant in the room, it’s an angry gorilla.

“Basic R and D, education and training, infrastructure, alternative technologies for energy – all this stuff we have to do while we are trying to balance the budget in the long run. That’s why the gorilla on our back is growling.”

Singh says the best-case scenario would be to lower and simplify taxes that include more people and raise more revenue.

“If the republicans swallow that, the democrats have to swallow this whole idea of trying to bring entitlements under control. I know I’m talking to a mostly republican crowd. I submit to you that both the republicans and the democrats will have to swallow stuff they don’t like if you want to see a grand compromise.”

He admits it will be tough to get politicians to compromise to pull that off.