Anderson Economic Group Work

Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, West Michigan Regional Policy Conference: Policy Primers

Each year, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce hosts the West Michigan Regional Policy Conference. Anderson Economic Group was retained to prepare a set of policy briefs for 2008, in order to provide conference attendees with current information on the policy issues that are essential to the business community.

Each brief answers questions including: What have other states and regions done regarding this issue? What are the benefits and drawbacks of this particular policy?

Design and Manufacturing for the New Economy

With the dawn of the information age, the scope of “tradeable” services, i.e. the services that can be off-shored, has expanded exponentially. The dominant trend in offshoring has been towards sending jobs in low-skilled manufacturing to countries with lower labor costs, such as Mexico and China. However, the level of skill that can be off-shored has been rising. Now, India in particular, can also supply workers skilled at business tasks such as programming, accounting, and IT support for a lower cost.

So, since the trend of offshoring itself seems here to stay, the logical question becomes what positions are vulnerable to offshoring, and if a workforce can be inoculated against this growing trend.


As state and local budgets become tighter, many start looking toward ways government can streamline services and become more efficient. Some see fragmentation in government as wasteful; communities could save money by sharing resources and reducing government overhead. Others argue that local government is better at representing communities and providing services for individuals within them. This document surveys the size of Michigan’s government in comparison to other states. Additionally, we present information on local initiatives to consolidate government.

Investing in Higher Education for West Michigan

West Michigan is home to 26 public and private colleges and universities. In 2006, west Michigan’s colleges and universities conferred nearly 26,900 degrees. Fifty-five percent of those were at the baccalaureate level. Fourty-two percent of the degrees conferred in west Michigan were in liberal arts. This field of study includes programs in journalism, education, library science, social services professions, and visual and performing arts. Other popular degrees were the medicine and biological science field, and the business, management, or law programs.

Michigan Means Business

The U.S. economy is in the midst of a gradual transition, depending less each year on manufacturing for employment, and depending more on services. As a traditional manufacturing powerhouse, Michigan has recently been at the sharp end of this transition. This document surveys the structure of Michigan’s economy, starting by examining the recent past in terms of employment and pay. We choose employment and payroll as measures of the structure of Michigan’s economy because they show which industries have had the success and the confidence in our workforce and economy to maintain or expand their workforce.

We conclude by surveying various evaluations of Michigan’s business climate, which will provide clues as to what the future holds for business in Michigan.

Michigan’s Education System

Today, Michigan’s public school system consists of 552 Local Education Authorities (LEAs, or local districts), 57 Intermediate School Districts (ISDs), and 223 Public School Academies. The Michigan Department of Education sets curriculum and teacher standards, and controls standardized testing for Michigan’s K-12 public school system.

Michigan’s public schools serve approximately 1.7 million students, preparing them to contribute to and lead our future workforce. Unfortunately, and despite significant taxpayer support, they are on the whole performing at or below average levels. A recent survey reports that 60% of employers find that recent graduates have poor math skills, and 75% report poor grammar and writing skills.

Michigan’s Workforce of the Future

While the timing and nature of Michigan’s economic recovery remains unknown, it is certain that having a skilled, productive workforce will be crucial to our economic future. This primer gives an overview of the recent past and future of Michigan’s demographics and labor force. It then provides an overview of “Right to Work” labor laws in the United States.

Public-Private Partnerships

Generally speaking, public-private partnerships (PPP) are agreements that use private sector resources to meet public sector needs. There are several models of public-private partnerships available to take advantage of both sectors’ strengths for the given project. The government may seek private sector partnerships with existing public services and facilities through service or management contracts. The amount of public verses private responsibility ranges based on the type of contractual agreement. The private sector may contract with the government to design and build a facility (such as a school), which is build in accordance with government requirements. On the other end of the spectrum is a build, own, operate agreement, where the government grants the rights of a project to a private entity, which retains ownership.

The Business of Health Care and Life Sciences

Health care touches our lives on multiple levels. Consumers of health care most often deal with doctors, nurses, and administrative personnel on a direct level. The business of health care, however, involves thousands of other employees who run hospitals, guide patients and practitioners through the insurance process, and research and develop new medical innovations for use across the globe.

The Millennial Generation

According to the Conference Board, almost 40 percent of the 64 million American workers will be eligible for retirement in the year 2010. Ready to take their place are the newest members of the American workforce, members of the “Millennial” generation. While there are several definitions, “Millennials” are typically described by writers and researchers as those born between 1980 and 2000. The cohort is often split into two groups: generation “Y” (born between 1980 and 1995) and generation “Z” (born between 1995 and 2000).