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Monday, April 30, 2012

Economic Progress Blooms in Spring

Rogers City is seeing signs of spring. Flowers are blooming and the sun was shining today.  We have yet to see much of the progress Katherine Young reports in the Detroit Free Press.  We would like to see more of the new business investment that reporter Katherine Yung notes below:

Like the first buds of spring, signs of an economic recovery are popping up all over metro Detroit and the state.  In Oakland County, economic development officials are swamped with new business investment projects, which are up 70% from last year's levels.  Attendance at the job seekers support group at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Rochester has dropped so much that the bimonthly meetings now occur only once every quarter.  And for the first time in five years, the Detroit Red Wings sold out all 41 of their home games during the regular season, and they didn't lower ticket prices.  "Things are looking pretty good right now," said John Evans, president of Evans Distribution Systems, an 83-year-old logistics company in Melvindale whose business nearly ground to a halt during the recession.  Evans has reason to be optimistic. From rising home sales to a sharp drop-off in first-time filings for unemployment benefits, the economic data clearly show that Michigan's economy has left its darkest days behind, thanks in large part to the comeback of the Detroit automakers.

In interviews with the Free Press, a variety of business owners, economists and others said things are getting a little better, but there's a long way to go before the damage wrought by the great recession is completely repaired.  "The glass is getting fuller, but it's still a lot emptier than we would like," said Charles Ballard, an economist at Michigan State University.  The recovery has not yet reached the nearly 400,000 unemployed Michiganders, empty office buildings, shuttered auto factories and the closed dealerships that dot the landscape. At the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, calls for assistance with utilities, food and other basic services were up 4% in the first quarter. And across the state, many businesses are barely hanging on.  But for the first time in several years, signs of hope have emerged in two key areas: housing and employment.

Real estate revives

The local real estate market has had its twists and turns in recent years, but there's a growing feeling that it has turned a corner.  Southfield-based Real Estate One declared Macomb County a seller's market last week. And metro Detroit ranked first in CoreLogic's ranking of most improved housing markets in terms of rising sales and falling delinquencies.  Home prices in metro Detroit have been posting year-over-year increases every month since last July, according to S&P/Case-Shiller data. However, prices aren't soaring yet. They've been bouncing along the bottom for the past couple of years at about 30% off from 2000 levels.  The situation has benefited Michiganders such as Chip and Julie Vandlen, 36- and 27-year-old working professionals. They're moving into a larger home at a fraction of the traditional market cost.  Julie, a surgical nurse, and Chip, a sales representative, moved from a Royal Oak bungalow to a Beverly Hills colonial and doubled their home size. Their new home, which is nearly 2,600 square feet with four bedrooms and two bathrooms, was listed for $320,000, and they paid $300,000. They plan to rent out their 1,000-square-foot Royal Oak home until the market improves.  Derek Bauer, an associate broker for Real Estate One in West Bloomfield, said the Vandlens represent a lot of buyers these days. They are move-up buyers who have been waiting for the right time, he said. With home prices still affordable and record-low interest rates, demand is increasing in many neighborhoods.  "The economic uncertainty seems to be going away for most people," Bauer said. "There are so many opportunities out there for both buyers and sellers. Sellers think they have to give it away to get rid of it. That's not the case anymore."

Fewer foreclosures

The inventory of homes for sale has fallen so much that despite the low prices indicating a buyer's market, it's really a seller's market in many areas, according to first-quarter data from Real Estate One. A seller's market is defined as having less than a three-months supply of homes available for sale at the current sales pace.  Real estate agents are now calling homeowners in subdivisions where their clients want to live to find out whether they would consider selling, Bauer said.  What's stalling many people from listing their homes for sale is that they owe more on the mortgage than the current market would bring. According to CoreLogic, about 35% of homes with mortgages -- or 480,075 -- are underwater in Michigan.  That's only a slight improvement from the 38.5% of homes with mortgages -- or 532,774 -- that were underwater two years ago.  But the low inventory has spurred some new home building in the region, and housing starts in southeast Michigan were up 47% to 741 in the first quarter, according to Housing Consultants of Clarkston. That's the most activity in five years, but just a fraction of the pre-recession levels.  Good signs now that could improve the housing market down the road are fewer foreclosure filings and a drop in the mortgage delinquency rates. Also, banks are approving more short sales, which are less costly than foreclosures for lenders, homeowners and communities.  "Is it a good market? No. I would describe it as neutral," said Dennis Capozza, a real estate and finance professor at the University of Michigan. "The worst is definitely over."  Capozza's research indicates that the risk of homeowners defaulting on newly originated mortgages is at its lowest level in seven years.  John Moore, an economist and associate professor of finance and economics at Walsh College, said the local recovery in housing will be driven by the fortunes of the auto companies, which are showing some positive trends.  "While the job market is starting to trend up in Michigan, I think it is going to be slow-paced," he said. "The Detroit market will be fine. We just have to be patient."  Things are picking up on the commercial front as well, largely because of the automakers' revival. A report from Marcus & Millichap forecasts that "office users will absorb the most space since 2005" this year.  Steve Ranger, property manager for Cedar Management Co. based in Bloomfield Hills, said showing and leasing activity is up in the six office and retail properties the company manages.  "Over the last six months, we have probably seen as much activity as we saw in the previous three years," Ranger said. "People believe things are turning around."

Hiring turnaround

Michigan's job market also is improving as plant closures have slowed to a trickle and automakers and their suppliers are rebuilding their staffs. The state's unemployment rate has gradually declined to 8.5% after reaching a high of 14.2% in August 2009. Many companies are facing a shortage of engineers, software developers and other technical talent.  In Farmington Hills, Jervis B. Webb, a material handling systems manufacturer, has openings for 30 engineers. The company held a private job fair earlier this month and has been trying to lure back engineers who left the state. It also set up a mentoring program for new hires.  In Melvindale, as sales rebounded, Evans Distribution Systems has increased its work force to about 500 from a low of 250 in late 2008. The family-owned company, which relies on the auto industry for about half its business, is struggling to find long-haul truck drivers it needs.  And in Ann Arbor, where the unemployment rate dipped to 5.4% in February, Google has added several dozen new sales and service employees so far this year, with more hiring expected in coming months.

Years until full recovery

Economists warn that it will take many years before the state's job market fully recovers. Ballard, the MSU economist, notes that 150,000 jobs have been added since employment in the state reached a low point at the end of 2009. But that's just 17% of the 860,100 jobs that were eliminated from April 2000 through the end of 2009.  And with nearly 400,000 Michiganders searching for work, there are still not enough jobs for every skill level.  "It's tough," said Westland resident Rick Essa, who has been unemployed since March 2009. "Nobody's hiring. I can't find anything."  The 53-year-old has only been invited to five interviews since he was laid off from an Office Depot warehouse job. He doesn't see the job market getting any better and is relying on food assistance from the state after running out of unemployment benefits last year.  Ed Kainz, a career coach and co-chair of the St. Andrew Career Mentoring Ministry in Rochester, has a different perspective. He has noticed more optimism among the job seekers who attend the ministry's now-quarterly support group meetings because they are seeing others get hired.  "Before, people would come in and their faces were drawn. You could sense the hopelessness," he said. "Now, even if they are out of work, there is a sense of hope."

Pickup in spending

The state's job growth and the resurgence of Detroit's auto industry is boosting the broader economy, lifting spending at some retailers, restaurants and other businesses.
At Buddy's Pizza, which has nine restaurants in metro Detroit, business has been on the upswing since the end of 2009, said Robert Jacobs, the chain's owner.
"A lot of people feel more secure because of the auto industry," he said. "But they don't feel great."
Buddy's is still getting tons of job applications, and employee turnover remains low.
Rottermond Jewelers, which has stores in Milford and Brighton, has seen an uptick in sales compared with a year or two ago, said Dean Rottermond, the company's founder and one of its owners. After adding a few lower-priced jewelry lines in recent years, he's now looking to bring in more upscale items.
But business has yet to return to the pre-recession days when frequent purchases of large diamond earrings and bracelets were the norm.
At the Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn, retailers have enjoyed rising sales since January despite high gas prices, said Catherine O'Malley, the mall's general manager. New stores have opened, such as Love Culture and Charming Charlie's, and Forever 21 expanded from 14,000 square feet to 31,000 square feet. Retailers "major concern is, 'Is this a bubble that may burst?' " O'Malley said. "They are positive, but cautious."
The return to stronger economic growth can't come soon enough for Brenda Stumbo and other municipal officials around the state. The supervisor of Ypsilanti Township is still battling the blight caused by a steady stream of home foreclosures in her community. And so far, no serious plans have emerged to redevelop General Motors' former Willow Run plant, which closed at the end of 2010.
But Stumbo has seen a few encouraging signs of commercial activity, such as new restaurants moving in and company expansions.
"I do see a ray of hope," she said. "But we need jobs for our people."
Contact Katherine Yung: 313-222-8763 or kyung@freepress.com

Yes, we need jobs for our people!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

10th Annual National Economic Gardening Conference

Rogers City staff and the Presque Isle County Staff participate in the local economic development community, as such, we want the public to understand important economic development issues.  Therefore, we want you to know about and, if possible, attend the 10th Annual National Economic Gardening Conference, sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and its Pure Michigan Business Connect team, this June 12 – 13 in Grand Rapids.

This annual conference will give participants the chance to engage in national dialogue on economic gardening with some of the movement’s leading experts and practitioners including Chris Gibbons, co-inventor of economic gardening, and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

Additional presenters include:

  • Carl Erickson– President of Michigan-based software product development company Atomic Object
  • Michael A. Finney – President and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)
  • Rob Fowler – President and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan
  • Fran Korosec – Director of client services for The Florida Economic Gardening Institute (GrowFL) at the University of Central Florida
  • Mark Lange – Executive director for the Edward Lowe Foundation development organization
Detailed information about the conference can be found here. For updates, announcement and news follow #NEGC12 on Twitter.

Space is limited. Register by April 30, 2012 for the early bird registration fee of $150 per person. Between April 30 and June 11, registration will be $175. To register, visit here.

If you want to car pool to this event contact me at mslown@rogerscity.com

Monday, April 23, 2012

Local Businesses Can Get Help

Here is a report from the MaComb County News:

Fledgling business told where to go for help, money
Wednesday, April 18,2012

By Gordon Wilczynski
A bus tour sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation of incubator programs in southeastern Michigan made it way to the Macomb OU INCubator in Sterling Heights on Tuesday to learn about the numerous programs and state and federal money that is available with the flick of a pen.
Julie Gustafson, executive director of the Macomb OU INCubator, said each year MEDC doles out $25 million in grants for early stage, high-growth potential technology business. Ten of the businesses are housed in the Macomb facility on 18 Mile Road east of Mound Road in Sterling Heights.
Gustafson said besides money, MEDC showcased to fledging businesses the tools available to get their business to another level. Before coming to Sterling Heights, the state-sponsor tour visited two other incubators and we going to one more before calling it a day.
The MEDC was created in April 1999 when 200 partners got together and offered their support throughout the state for people starting large businesses. The 34 program are funded by tobacco and casino revenues.
All of the programs are state funded and people looking for business help must screened to be eligible for free money. MEDC has a considerable amount of volunteerism and mentorship.
Kris Bergman, a consultant, said businesses who need help are mentored by businesses involved in incubators. Bergman said the incubator then describes what they can do to help the business in its infant stage.
Most of the businesses who are looking for help are in technology of some sort and need commercializing assistance. Providing help are 7 to 15 universities in Michigan, depending on the subject matter, that offer all kind of programs.
Besides other businesses, those seeking help at Macomb also have available expert professors from Oakland University.
“Businesses seeking counseling get coaching education at no or low cost,” said speaker Tom Kelly.
The Macomb incubator provides a new office building at 6633 18 Mile Road with high speed Internet.
Businesses have unlimited use of conference rooms and access to atrium and innovation laboratories, high-speed copiers, faxes, etc.

End of this story, but not end of your story.  If you want to expand your business or start a new business in Rogers City, you can obtain assistance too!  Contact me via email at mslown@rogerscity.com or call 989-734-2191.

Michigan Economy Picking up Steam

Here is a report from the Detroit Free Press:

PNC Bank's chief economist delivered an upbeat economic forecast for the U.S. and Michigan on Thursday, predicting increased job growth nationwide and a moderate increase in consumer spending this year.
"The prognosis for the economy over the next couple years is positive," Stuart Hoffman told some of the bank's customers during a luncheon speech at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.
Hoffman expects the U.S. economy to add 2.25 million to 2.5 million jobs this year, up from the 1.6 million gained in 2011. "The economy had a pretty good start in the first quarter," he said, noting that employers created 600,000 jobs from January through March.
Hoffman also said that nationally, the housing market is showing modest improvement and consumer spending will likely show moderate growth of 2% to 2.5% this year.
He anticipates auto sales to come in at 14.7 million vehicles this year, rising closer to 15 million in 2013.
Though recessions in several European countries will slow the U.S. economy, Hoffman said the overall negative effect of reduced exports to Europe is very small. "Europe will not make or break the U.S. economy," he added.
In other economic news, the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association that is being released today shows a surge in venture capital investment in Michigan companies during the first quarter.
Twelve companies in the state obtained $41.4 million from venture capitalists, up from the $4 million that went to seven companies in the year-ago period.
This was the strongest first quarter since 2002.
Of the $41.4 million, 40% or $16.4 million went to CytoPherx, an Ann Arbor medical device firm. Relume Technologies of Oxford, a maker of LED lighting products, received $6 million.
WorkForce Software, a Livonia workforce management software developer, got $5.1 million, and Duo Security, an Ann Arbor online security software firm, obtained $5 million.

Thanks to the Detroit Free Press staff for this good news!

Rogers City's economy has been slower to pick up speed, but there are some signs of new activity.  For example, the Chicory Cafe is about to open.  Also, Carmenuse Lime and Stone Company has been working all winter and spring to renovate the infrastructure at their Rogers City facility.  The County is about ready to open its new building too.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Abbey Idalski--Miss Rogers City

Thanks to Richard Lamb, Editor and Publisher for the Presque Isle County Advance for this great picture.  Abbey is a wonderful representative for our community--not only for her beauty and talent but also for her wonderful spirit and compassion for others.   

Improved Business Climate

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) reports:

Improved Biz Climate Brings Jobs

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent in March – down from 8.8 percent in February -- with total employment increasing by 21,000.

“The bold reforms made to Michigan’s business climate by Governor Snyder and the Legislature are working,” Michigan Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Michael A. Finney said. “We are reinventing our state in a way that works better for everyone and moving forward with a new economic certainty that is very attractive to investors and businesses making new location and investment decisions.”

The unemployment rate for March is the lowest since August 2008 and marks eight straight months of improvement.

Finney said that all that’s happened here of late is catching the nation’s attention. Michigan’s new, competitive business tax has propelled the state’s corporate tax ranking to seven from 49 in the nation and overall tax rank to 12 from 18.

Confidence that Michigan is on the right track helped to create 80,000 private-sector jobs in the state last year. Newsweek ranked the state No. 1 for job growth in August, Bloomberg ranked Michigan’s economic health second in the nation and CNN called Detroit the next Silicon Valley. In February, the Federal Reserve projected Michigan on track to lead all other states in job growth over the next six months.

Rogers City is prepared to participate in Michigan's Economic growth.  If you want to find a great small town with plenty of economic opportunity, look no further.  Check out the "bright future" in Rogers City.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Opportunity Knocks!

Opportunity knocks in many place, including Detroit and Rogers City.  Here is a great article by Daniel Howes from the Detroit News.
April 10, 2012 at 8:32 am

Opportunity knocks loudly in Detroit

It takes a keen understanding of the word "opportunity" to follow state intervention into Detroit's bleak financial affairs with a play for Silicon Valley hotshots.
But that's what Dan Gilbert's Quicken Loans Inc. and his family of companies are doing with their unambiguous effort Monday to woo to Detroit some of the 2,000 soon-to-be-former employees of Yahoo Inc., the flailing Internet company laying off employees in a desperate search to find its way.
Is Gilbert crazy or smart?
The latter, without question. Because as much as the city's widely chronicled financial collapse into a consent agreement with Gov. Rick Snyder and the state Treasury Department is a cautionary tale about Detroit's deep dysfunction, it's also evidence that a long-impenetrable wall of denial is beginning to crumble under the weight of financial reality.
And that's more good than bad — as much as the city's heads-in-the-sand crowd and suburbia's they'll-never-fix-it cynics may refuse to acknowledge it. Detroit is poised to unwind decades of bad management, unnecessary costs, uncompetitive functions and redundant departments, and key leaders are betting they'll get more right than wrong in the months and years ahead.
Gilbert is not alone. Along the spine of downtown, a growing cadre of for-profit and nonprofit leaders — and outsiders, more importantly — is seeing opportunity in Detroit and showing it by doubling down on a place many of its own people have abandoned and given up for dead.
Maybe the homers resigned to the alleged inevitability of collapse don't know opportunity, at least one of the business kind, when it's right in front of them. Automakers led by outsiders with no previous connections to the city or the companies they head are adding shifts, consolidating staff in the city where appropriate and targeting charitable giving, and Chrysler Group LLC is poised to open its own downtown office.
Gilbert's effort to assemble a high-tech hub in his expanding real estate empire along Woodward Avenue is unspooling steadily despite the city's fiscal troubles, the latest coup being a Detroit office for the microblogging site Twitter. GalaxE Solutions Inc., a New Jersey-based information technology services firm, is spearheading an "Outsource to Detroit" initiative.
Tennessee-based Vanguard Health Systems is investing nearly $1 billion in the Detroit Medical Center, sitting as it does smack in the middle of the poorest major city in the United States. Remarkable, that, in a shrinking city with unemployment more than twice the national average, but even more so coming from a for-profit health care company.
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, ensconced in an enviable complex across Woodward from the DMC, endured a lengthy strike that culminated in a sharply different business model better suited to current economic reality. The Detroit Institute of Arts reinterpreted its holdings in a bid to become more interactive and responsive to the community.
The College for Creative Studies expanded its mission, repurposing General Motors Corp.'s old Argonaut Building in a way that connects the city's past with its present and future. And Wayne State University is enhancing its residential space and embracing its neighborhood in ways it hasn't before.
One net result: The supply of Class-A rental space downtown is struggling to keep pace with accelerating demand, and demand so far appears to be relatively undeterred by the critical financial problems causing gridlock in City Hall.
Why? Because the people making the decisions to invest, to expand and to live where they work, despite some well-known inconveniences, are coming to the conclusion that opportunity in Detroit outweighs the risk. More than a few old hands would declare them nuts, given the city's history of violent crime and poor service delivery, but few promising opportunities come without risk.
(313) 222-2106
Daniel Howes’ column runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120410/OPINION03/204100324#ixzz1rksMDarD

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Michigan Launches Export Initiative to China

Below is an announcement from MEDC about an opportunity to increase exports:

Michigan consumer goods companies interested in reaching new customers in the fastest growing economy in the world will have an opportunity to take part in a new exporting pilot program offered through a partnership between the export services company Export Now and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. 

The Pure Michigan Export Now pilot program will help consumer-product companies in the state sell their products directly to Chinese consumers via the world’s largest Internet-based sales platform. The program will be detailed in four informational forums taking place around the state in April.  

“Export Now’s unique combination of services further broadens the state’s Pure Michigan Business Connect program by reenergizing the focus on exporting and economic gardening,” said MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney. “This unique exporting program builds on Governor Rick Snyder’s mission to China last fall, where we met with government officials and business leaders to bring new job-creating investments here and open doors for Michigan businesses.” 

Export Now provides an end-to-end IT and logistics solution that enables Michigan companies to sell on China’s e-commerce platform, www.tmall.com, as easily as selling on similar and familiar U.S. e-commerce platforms at home. Michigan companies will be able to participate in the first-ever mass marketing of Michigan goods to China in a single place through the Pure Michigan department in the online store.

With support from MEDC and Export Now, the first 100 Michigan companies to sign up for the program will pay only $1,000 and use the service for one year, two-thirds less than the usual $3,000 charge. Michigan companies will ship goods on consignment to an Export Now depot in California, where shipments are consolidated and forwarded to Export Now’s Shanghai distribution center. All companies pay a transaction cost with each sale.  

“Today’s announcement opens up one of the world’s largest markets to Michigan’s food and agriculture businesses,” said Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Keith Creagh. “Our state’s high quality food and agriculture products are sought by Chinese consumers. This pilot program utilizes technology to provide a new innovative export opportunity for Michigan’s food and agriculture companies as they explore new markets.”  

Frank Lavin, CEO of Export Now, said that the partnership with the State of Michigan demonstrates the crucial role exports play in economic development.  

“New customers mean more sales and that translates into jobs,” Lavin said. “Through our unique e-commerce solution, we eliminate the challenges of language, culture and regulation that prevent many small businesses from entering new markets.” 

“We’re the first state in the country to be doing this,” Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Senior Vice President of Business and Community Development Doug Smith said to host Carol Cain during a taping of CBS 62’s Michigan Matters. “From our standpoint, it’s an exciting way to test the Chinese market.”  

Visit here to learn more about Pure Michigan Export Now. Visit the links below to learn more about Carol Cain’s take on the program:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Engineering Jobs Return to Michigan

Here is an interesting article about engineering jobs returning to Michigan.  This is a clear sign that the economy is improving.

The Article is by Katherine Yung and John Gallagher

Detroit Free Press Business Writers
Participants Gerald Haug, from left, and David Brown, along with recruiter Shawn Rule of Thomson Reuters came out for a speed interview event at SPARK East Business Incubator in Ypsilanti in order to build relationships with potential employers and workers.
Recruiter Shawn Rule, right, of Thomson Reuters meets potential employees during a Shifting Code event in Ypsilanti. Shifting Code, a software training program, is one of several actions state officials and other organizations are taking to address the scarcity of technical talent. / March photos by JARRAD HENDERSON/Detroit Free Pres
Rob Henderson, left, Josh Matz and Ken Olson mingle during the Shifting Code event. The first of Shifting Code's 12-week courses started in February, and plans call for nine additional courses this year.
At an Engineering Society of Detroit job fair in Novi last month, open jobs outnumbered job seekers nearly 6-1.
Fifty-one companies, from Bosch to Hyundai to DTE Energy, looked to fill almost 3,500 positions. For the first time in a long time, engineers like Nancy Miron no longer were scared. The 54-year-old left Michigan during the recession for a job in Kentucky, only to be laid off there. She still owns a home in Royal Oak.
"The market is better than it was several years ago," she said. "I'm not worried."
Even so, a shortage of highly skilled workers is threatening to stall newfound growth for business and the state economy, even as millions across the country are looking for work.
Experts can't pin down exactly how many jobs go unfilled because of the skills mismatch, but they say it's part of the reason unemployment rates -- although inching down -- remain stubbornly high.
The state's online jobs bank is averaging about 76,000 available positions every month, even though there were 409,000 unemployed Michiganders in February.

Experts say the Great Recession prompted many professionals to switch careers or retire early. Hundreds of thousands from all skill levels also left the state in search of available jobs.
Talent shortage a top challenge for companies

Attracting professionals like Miron back to Michigan is one of the strategies companies and the state now pursue to fill open positions. The state has launched special programs, such as talent swat teams, to woo skilled labor back and to retrain others.

Effort to find skilled workers surges in Michigan

From recruitment swat teams to boot camps and other specialized training programs, the push to help Michigan employers find skilled workers in short supply is taking on new urgency for the state and private sector as the economy picks up steam.
The huge demand for technical professionals and shortage of available talent isn't limited to automotive engineers. DTE Energy has openings for 100 engineers to work in power distribution, nuclear and fossil-fuel power plants, natural gas, environmental and information technology. And many technology companies, such as Livonia-based WorkForce Software, have jobs for software engineers and developers that go unfilled for months.
"The biggest problem I have is finding talent," said Ken Olson, WorkForce's vice president of software development. The company, which develops software for work force management, has 45 open positions. The company can't build its products fast enough to meet demand, Olson said.

Threat to growth

The shortage of necessary skilled professionals across multiple industries is threatening a resurgent growth for some Michigan companies and the larger state economy.
"It definitely slows down the economy," said Charles Ballard, an economics professor at Michigan State University. "There are people who could be working, but who don't have the skills to fit into the available jobs."
Companies including Ricardo -- an auto supplier with a technical center in VanBuren Township and is trying to fill 20 positions -- have held in-house job fairs and advertised on radio stations and billboards. Ricardo has encouraged its employees to pass along the names of promising job candidates.
"You can't find these people overnight," said Lisa Schyck, one of Ricardo's human resources recruiters. "You have to go out and get them."
It's unknown how many total jobs in Michigan or the region are going begging because of a lack of available skilled professionals. In manufacturing alone, U.S. employers have not been able to fill 600,000 skilled positions, according to a late summer survey of the manufacturing industry from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute.
The situation is putting upward pressure on salaries for many technical workers. For engineers, "the pay levels are beginning to increase across the board in all states, including Michigan," said Todd Soulier, talent acquisition manager for EASi, a Detroit-based engineering staffing firm.
Taking action
In Michigan, the scarcity of many kinds of technical talent has become so acute that state officials and several organizations and companies are taking action to address the problem.
Some of the key efforts are:
• Swat teams: The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has formed mini talent swat teams for five areas: manufacturing; health care; alternative energy and utilities; information technology and media, and agriculture.
The teams assist businesses that are struggling to find skilled professionals.
"We've been seeing a number of employers raising the 'help me' flag," said Amy Cell, the MEDC's senior vice president of talent enhancement.
She and other experts point to a number of factors for why the skills mismatch is so prevalent today.
For starters, many engineers and other professionals either retired or switched careers during the recession, while hundreds of thousands of others left the state for opportunities elsewhere.
Michigan also has a large pool of workers whose technology skills need to be updated because they've been out of the work force for lengthy periods of time. On top of all this, the pipeline of freshly minted engineering and computer science graduates is shrinking as interest in the sciences has waned.
• Shifting Code: It's a new software training program the state is backing that is designed to quickly teach prospective workers the software development and other technology skills employers need.
The first of these 12-week courses started in February at Ann Arbor SPARK's Ypsilanti business incubator with 26 participants selected from 740 applicants. Plans call for nine additional courses to be held this year.
"Sometimes it's just a tweak in a skill level that can make a difference in a job seeker landing an opportunity," said Donna Doleman, SPARK's vice president of talent, communications and marketing.
• Made in Michigan Pipeline: The shortage of electrical, mechanical and other engineers prompted the Engineering Society of Detroit to launch this new recruitment effort. The society believes manufacturing is crucial for attracting engineers to the state, so it plans to team up with other groups to find ways to grow this sector. Other efforts to increase the number of engineers also are in the works.
"We want to bring our engineers back to Michigan," said Christopher Webb, director of the ESD Institute.
• Global Talent Retention Initiative of Southeast Michigan: Last September saw the launch of this new worker recruitment effort. Backed by seven universities, GTRI provides international students at Michigan schools with the resources they need to stay in the state after graduation, from connections to local employers to assistance with résumés.
The group also is holding educational seminars for employers to help them understand immigration, tax and other issues involved in hiring foreign students.
"We want to make Michigan a desirable place for international students," said Athena Trentin, GTRI's director.
Contact Katherine Yung: 313-222-8763 or kyung@freepress.com
More Details: Help for workers and employers
A shortage of engineers and other highly skilled professionals prompted Michigan and several organizations to launch efforts to fill open jobs. Here are some resources for employers and workers.
Shifting Code is a program for worker retraining in software development and technology skills. E-mail questions to shiftingcode @michigan .org.
Global Talent Retention Initiative of Southeast Michigan helps foreign-born graduates from Michigan schools stay after graduation and fill jobs. Go to www .MiGTRI .org .
Michigan Talent Bank: www.michworks.org /mtb/user/MTB_EMPL .EntryMainPage
Automation Alley: www.automationalley.com
Engineering Society of Detroit: www.esd.org
Michigan Economic Development Corp.'s customer contact center: 888-522-0103

Rogers City is a great location for an engineering firm to establish a main headquarters or a branch office.  We are on the information superhighway with fiber in place, low property costs and low taxes, a talented workforce, and a terrific location on Lake Huron.  You will be able to see Lake Huron from your office in the downtown.  Your corporate cruiser is two minutes from your office, docked and waiting to launch from the Rogers City Marina.  The airport is less than five minutes away.  Contact Mark Slown for more information or a tour: mslown@rogerscity.com.