Grand Rapids Area Chamber probes local business
The Grand Rapids Area Chamber recently released the results of its annual government affairs survey of member businesses. The survey results show that workforce and talent issues continue to rank as top priorities for employers, with parking availability also surfacing as an issue of concern.
“We use this survey as an opportunity each year to see where our members are seeing some of their biggest obstacles and opportunities,” said Joshua Lunger, director of government affairs at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber. “It’s an opportunity for us to investigate further into issues that we might not have been spending as much time on.”
The survey revealed business sentiment remains positive, with 96 percent of employers reporting a favorable or very favorable perception of the business climate in West Michigan. The biggest challenge, according to respondents, is finding qualified candidates to hire.
“We’re growing and creating jobs, but we don’t have enough folks to fill them,” said Lunger. “80 percent of companies reporting talent shortages say the cause is due to consistent business growth and job creation, rather than hiring to fill an existing slot,” he added. “This is actually a good problem to have.”
To address the talent shortage, Lunger says the chamber is focused on promoting skilled trades in public schools and through the Skilled Trades Training Fund, a statewide grant for employers, as well as encouraging greater investment in early childhood education.
“Talent and education policy is a very long game,” said Lunger. “You have to look at the whole picture, from access to high-quality childcare all the way to what’s in the curriculums of the schools.”
Another issue that emerged for the second year in a row was access to parking, with 28 percent describing it as a significant challenge. To address these concerns, Lunger says the chamber is advocating for increased supply.
“We had a group of members that met for a few months and came up with an eight-point parking and mobility plan,” he said. “Whether it’s parking a little further out and using a high-frequency transit service or improving our downtown circular, we want employers to have a whole list of options for how their employees can get to work.”
Lunger says that, while the survey revealed a consistently positive outlook among employers, the concerns raised regarding talent shows the business community can’t afford to become complacent.
“We titled the report: ‘Businesses like what they see, but addressing talent is critical to continued growth,’ and we think that really sums it up,” he said. “We have a lot of positives, but we can’t sleep on this talent issue. We need to put it front-and-center, and I think that’s true for most places in the country right now that are growing.”
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