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Tariffs beginning to hurt W. Michigan businesses

The deadline for businesses to apply for 2010 tax breaks is Oct. 31
The deadline for businesses to apply for 2010 tax breaks is Oct. 31

Tariffs have been threatened for many months, and now that they are actually being imposed, the West Michigan economy is beginning to feel the pinch, said Brian G. Long, director of Supply Management Research in Grand Valley State University's Seidman College of Business.

Long surveyed local business leaders and his findings below are based on data collected during the last two weeks of July.

After 18 months of solid growth, the survey's index of business improvement (new orders) is down sharply from June at -3, down from +33.

"Although our last report was quite strong, growth has slowed in almost every sector of the West Michigan economy," said Long. "Business planners hate uncertainty, and many firms appear to be putting expansion plans on hold until they can see a clearer picture of where the trade war is taking us and exactly how much it will cost."

Long said auto sales are continuing to soften, especially for local auto parts suppliers. He said local firms producing capital equipment are still benefitting from the recently passed tax advantages for new capital investments, but rising costs are a major concern. Many local industrial distributors reported flat business conditions for July, some of which may be seasonal.

Vincent Duffy has been news director at Michigan Public since May 2007.