Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 18, 2012

Doug Luciani: Looking forward to 2013


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---- — There were clear takeaways at last week's Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook Breakfast regarding what to expect in 2013, as well as a discussion of risks and opportunities.

With little changed at the federal level, economic uncertainty will continue to stymie growth and prosperity. Ominous threats of a "fiscal cliff" and legislative gridlock raise the specter of higher unemployment, higher taxes and crushing debt.

Congress and President Barack Obama may get it right, dealing with tax issues, foreign policy hot spots and enabling this nation's massive economy to boom once more.

But it's also quite possible the uncertainty will be prolonged with Congress and the president applying a temporary fix on the most pressing issues and "kicking the can down the road" until the next deadline.

Success for business at a federal level will mean an acceptance of general uncertainty and risk, and an ability to move forward in a global economy in spite of — and not as a result of — federal policy.

To some extent, however, the "rules of engagement" for business will begin to emerge in 2013. But the real action will be at the state and regional levels. That's good for us.

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-dominated House and Senate are expected to continue Snyder's program he describes as "relentless positive action."

While there may be bills introduced concerning some form of Right to Work, and bills to make ballot-driven initiatives more transparent to petition signers and voters, the state legislature should be busy with other issues.

A few key agenda items include rewriting the school aid formula, addressing funding for state transportation needs — including a potential gas-tax increase — attempting to eliminate the personal property tax while keeping local governments whole, and working through the hijinks of Matty Maroun in order to build the New International Trade Crossing at Detroit.

Locally, there was great optimism expressed about the state of the region's economy and the availability of capital from banks and gap sources. A clear need is the availability of skilled workers, particularly in the trades.

The dynamics of the economy present a landscape fraught with risk; however, with great risk comes opportunity for great reward and product differentiation.

Now is the time when investments in one's business have the greatest opportunity for exponential returns. Such investments are not to be made lightly, however, and a business owner would do well to take advantage of a plethora of sage advisors available for hire or at no cost. The first step for businesses looking to expand and capitalize on a market where their competitors are hoarding cash and resources is to work with their banker, attorney and/or CPA.

Another is to take advantage of the multitude of resources available via the Northwest Michigan Business Atlas available at www.businessatlas.org.

If you're unsure how to proceed or would like to explore what lies ahead in greater detail, contact the Chamber of Commerce. In the Traverse City region, you can find us at www.tcchamber.org.

Doug Luciani is President and CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.