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Current Business Trends: Modest Gain

Posted on November 01, 2012

The greater Grand Rapids industrial economy has shown modest improvement, according to the results of a monthly survey compiled by Brian G. Long, director of Supply Management Research in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University. 

The survey results are based on data collected during the last two weeks of October. The survey’s index of business improvement, called new orders, edged up to +6, from -2. The production index remained negative at -1, but was an improvement from -10. The purchasing index slipped back to -7, down from +0. The employment index was unchanged at +4.

“Part of the recent strength of our local economy relates to the uptick in the office furniture business, which is now significant for several firms,” said Long.  “For industrial distributors, this month’s performance can best be described as mixed.”

Long said Kent County reported housing starts up 32 percent over a year ago. “With the housing market now nicely recovering from an apparent bottom, potential buyers are taking advantage of the record low interest rates to buy homes,” he said.

Long added many business owners are waiting until after the election and after the “taxmageddon” situation has been resolved before committing new resources. He said business owners don’t like to expand or hire new people in an environment of extreme uncertainty, and the way ahead should be much clearer in January.

The Institute for Supply Management survey is a monthly survey of business conditions that includes 45 purchasing managers in the greater Grand Rapids area and 25 in Kalamazoo. The respondents are from the region’s major industrial manufacturers, distributors and industrial service organizations. It is patterned after a nationwide survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Management. Each month, the respondents are asked to rate eight factors as “same,” “up” or “down.” An expanded version of this report and details of the methodology used to compile it are available at

For more information, contact Brian Long at (269) 323-2359.


Long said the furniture industry is turning around and will end the year with positive numbers (audio).

Long said the office furniture industry is being helped by new construction (audio).

Long said the housing industry is improving, especially in Kent County (audio).

Long said the economy will soon be affected by “taxmageddon,” an impending tax increase on January 1 (audio).

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