Businesses honored amid economic strife

jackie.stark

As national reports of an economy in trouble continue to pour forth, Operation Action U.P., an economic development center which focuses on the economy of the Upper Peninsula, will spend this Friday, Jan. 16 celebrating three U.P. businesses that have continued to thrive despite the national recession.

The group, which was established in 1963, meets annually with business community members to review accomplishments of the past year and to discuss the prospects of the U.P. economy for the future.

John Marshall, co-chair of Operation Action U.P., said the group has been giving out excellence awards for businesses for the past twenty years.

“There’s kind of an unwritten criteria (for choosing businesses for the award) of jobs created, they’ve been in business for more than 2-3 years, contributed to economic wellbeing of Northern Michigan,” Marshall said.

Northern economics professor Tawni Ferrarini will also speak during the annual meeting, which will take place in the Great Lakes Rooms.

Other speakers will also discuss the future prospects of the U.P. economy during the event.

For Northern students looking to begin their careers within the confines of the U.P., Ferrarini said it is in replacement positions that they can find their first jobs after graduation.

“Baby boomers are retiring, and they’re leaving vacancies, but there are certain skill sets needed by the people who are going to fill these vacancies, so again it’s important for the student graduating to have a good feel for what the employer needs,” she said.

Ferrarini stressed the importance of volunteer work, internships, being involved in mentoring programs and other activities that pertain to a student’s major in order to make themselves more desirable to possible employers. Most of all, she said it is in networking that Northern students can find their saving grace.

“The name of the game right now is networking,” she said. “Become involved heavily in the areas you want to locate to.”

And though most reports on the American economy look bleak, with the automotive industry in desperate need of help and unemployment numbers on the rise, Ferrarini said it is in the recession that prosperity will plant its roots.

“The automobile industry has been one of the leading industries in the United States for a long time and we’re transitioning out of that,” she said. “So there’s a lot of new features to this recession, but there have been unique features to every recession that we’ve experienced. Every recession plants the seeds for the next recovery.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of December, 2008, the number of unemployed people has increased by 632,000 to 11.1 million, putting unemployment at 7.2 percent nationwide. Since the beginning of the recession in December, 2007, unemployment has risen by 2.3 percentage points, or 3.6 million people.

With Michigan in its ninth straight year of recession and high unemployment rates a norm rather than a fear, Ferrarini said it would be difficult to come up with a policy that will prove effective in bringing new life to the state’s economy

“The automobile industry has been struggling for years. It’s hard to say what the solution to a long standing problem has been,” she said. “Global competition works around the clock, 24/7. If I had the answer, I’m sure they’d have me seated right there and giving it to them. It’s just really, really hard to tell.

However, the United States has pulled itself out of recessions many times, Ferrarini said.

“One thing Americans have shown throughout U.S. history is that they’re resilient,” she added. “We didn’t have all the rules and regulations violations (in previous recessions), so it’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out.”