Small Business Association of Michigan says Governor-elect Snyder is the right person to lead economic growth

The Small Business Association of Michigan says the election of Rick Snyder presents a tremendous opportunity for Michigan because he has he has the right background at the right time to implement a job-creating “economic gardening” strategy.

Rob Fowler“Economic gardening means growing our own small businesses from the ground up, and it’s vital to the future of our state because most job growth comes from our own small businesses, not big businesses – neither the large firms that we have here in the state nor the ones that are lured to locate here by expensive tax breaks,” says association President and CEO Rob Fowler. “Hunting for large firms and bringing them to Michigan will continue to be an important part of our economic development toolkit. However, we have been working on economic gardening for nearly two years and believe it is a game-changing strategy for growing and sustaining our economy and creating jobs. Governor-elect Snyder is uniquely well equipped to implement this strategy, and we look forward to assisting the new administration in this effort.”

The Small Business Association of Michigan suggested that implementation of an economic gardening strategy should include the commitment of at least 60 percent of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC) budget toward economic gardening activities, such as increased support for fast-growing second stage small firms.

Fowler also says it’s important the Governor-elect Snyder and the legislature take steps to bring our state to a position of leading the nation in the commercialization of the technology that’s developed by our public/private institutions. “We are among the nation’s leaders in public/private research output, but we are far behind other states when it comes to turning that research into jobs,” says Fowler.

The association president also called on state leaders to work to shift Michigan’s cultural outlook so that entrepreneurialism is valued and nourished at all levels of society. Michigan’s community assets – including libraries, schools and local governments – can be energized to encourage small business startups, innovation and job creation, Fowler says.

Further details on the Small Business Association of Michigan's economic gardening recommendations and opportunities for the MEDC are contained in the association's Blueprint for “Propelling a New Economic Direction for Michigan” report.

We’re Electing a Governor, but the Nov. 2 Election Has Other Important Races and a Crucial Ballot Question

(By David Palsrok, vice president government relations for the Small Business Association of Michigan. Originally published in the association’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.)

We’ve seen a lot of attention on the race for Governor. However, the races for Attorney General and Secretary of State are extremely important to Michigan as well. Why? Here are three reasons that small business owners should pay attention to the candidates and cast a well thought-out vote:

1. The Attorney General is Michigan’s chief law enforcement executive and makes crucial decisions about consumer protection and the deployment of the state’s legal resources. (The Small Business Association of Michigan has endorsed Bill Schuette.)
2. The Secretary of State has important responsibilities for the administration of elections and election law.
3. Both offices can be steppingstones to the governor’s office, so choose wisely!

Congressional Races Important to Michigan

SBAM does not endorse in federal races, but you need to pay close attention to the candidates in your congressional district. Control of the U.S. House and Senate is up for grabs in this election (note: Michigan’s Sens. Levin and Stabenow are not up for re-election this year.) It is widely expected that the Democrats stand to lose seats in both chambers, potentially turning control of the House, and possibly the Senate, over to the Republicans.

The question in Michigan is which seats will be targeted by each respective party? Congressman Peters (D) and Congressman Schauer (D) both defeated sitting Republicans, so those seats will likely be high priority targets of the GOP. Also, the retirement of Congressman Stupak (D) leaves an opening for the GOP to target his seat that was previously held by a Republican.

SBAM Urges You to Vote “no” on Proposal 1 to Hold a Constitutional Convention

A broad coalition has come together to oppose Proposal 1 and urge Michigan voters to Vote NO. Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution is made up of SBAM and leading groups representing agriculture, education, faith, manufacturing, business – both large and small, transportation and infrastructure, real estate, and medicine. Coalition members may often disagree on matters of public policy, but they agree a Constitutional Convention would be a costly ($45 million), lengthy (two years or more) and dangerous process.

A constitutional convention will reopen every contentious issue either passed or rejected by voters over the past decades; issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action, gambling, tax limitations, school vouchers, stem cells, and the death penalty. It’s also virtually certain that a constitutional convention will be populated by delegates selected in low-turnout special elections dominated by extreme partisanship and special interests.

Michigan has many problems that need to be addressed, but none of these problems will be solved by an expensive and controversial Constitutional Convention.

Making Change in Michigan

Your vote counts. Don’t let Tuesday, November 2 be just another day. Take time to understand the candidates’ positions on Propelling a New Economic Direction for Michigan and other matters important to small businesses and cast your vote wisely. Making change in Michigan is on the line and your vote will directly contribute to revitalizing our promising state.

Schuette, Kelly, Young Endorsed

The Small Business Association of Michigan has endorsed Bill Schuette for Attorney General and Justice Robert Young and Judge Mary Beth Kelly for the Supreme Court.

“Bill Schuette’s experience as a lawmaker, state department head and judge gives him the breadth of experience that will make him an effective Attorney General,” says Small Business Association of Michigan President and CEO Rob Fowler. “We believe that as Attorney General he will promote a safe and thriving entrepreneurial economy in Michigan.”

“Justice Young and Judge Kelly have demonstrated a strong, conservative judicial philosophy,” Fowler says. “They are dedicated to restoring balance in Michigan law and promoting fairness for Michigan families and businesses; their sound judgment is vital to the State’s economic stability.”

The Small Business Association of Michigan has also endorsed Rick Snyder for Governor. For a list of the association's legislative endorsements, click here.

The Four Pillars of an Internet Presence: Pillars Three & Four

By Wendy Williams

In the first article of this series, “The Four Pillars of a Robust Internet Presence for Small Businesses,” printed in the November/December issue of Focus, we talked about the changeable content on your website being the ground zero for crafting the business message you wish to share and reviewed the strategy for putting this message out into the world within a different context by sharing links out via social media channels. In this article, we talk about the second two pillars: eNews programs and personal interaction.

Pillar #3

The eNews program. T his method of communicating with your audience can reinforce the outreach from the first two pillars, but add a level of permission-based and direct messaging into the mix. It can be the most powerful channel, if done with a few important strategies in mind.

Not everyone reads your blog, and not everyone subscribes to social media
The first thing businesses must accept is that no matter how much effort you put into blog posts and conversing with your audience on social media, much of what you have to say will slip through the cracks. People hunt and peck around the Web for information they want, and you are lucky if they manage to discover your site.  A good eNews program, however, has the ability to turn all this effort into a narrative, driving your audience to your website so that nothing really slips between the cracks. On top of that, is MEASURABLE.
So how does an eNews Program Work?

Once you decide how often it makes sense to send out an eNews program, the best plan is to populate it with content (articles and posts) you have already created on your blog. Thus, your eNews becomes an aggregated email that highlights everything you wish to share since you sent out the last eNews. So if you decide to include a blog post you wrote or want to share a conversation you had about a topic on Facebook, you simply include all the links in your eNews.  Everyone who receives your eNews has REQUESTED to receive it, which is a great reason to make sure you are sharing material they are going to be delighted to get in their inbox. One example of a service that can manage an eNews program is Constant Contact.  The metrics in the back end are great as they show you how many people clicked on which links, how many people “opt out” and don’t wish to hear from you anymore (this can be an important clue that you need to think about the eNews using the perspective of your audience a bit more), and even how many people forwarded the eNews or shared it via social media. It’s great data.

In most eNews programs, such as Constant Contact, there is also an option to attach a URL containing your newsletter in the eNews. This is an important option to consider as you can then copy the url into a site such as (which also utilizes tracking information) and put this optimized link into a Twitter post and on FB for sharing. For example, one of client only has 200 subscribers, but they get over 350 page views of each eNews because of the sharing on Twitter and Facebook.

How often should a company send out an eNews?

This is an interesting question to consider. If you send it out too often, without something compelling at its core, your eNews can quickly be regarded as “junk.” The rule of thumb would be to send an eNews out as often as you have something important to say (from your customer’s perspective, not yours). For many businesses, I think it is safe to say that quarterly will work well. For a business that has a lot of scheduled events, perhaps monthly would work better. One client, a Fish Market, sends their eNews every Friday. It seems like overkill in theory, but it works because the primary mission of the eNews for this particular business is listing what perishable items are available

Weekly Legislative Update

Vote for Rick Snyder for Governor
Vote NO on Proposal 1
Congressional Races to Watch
Preview your Ballot

Vote for Rick Snyder for Governor

SBAM’s Small Biz PAC has endorsed Rick Snyder in the race to become Michigan’s next Governor.

SBAM chose to endorse Snyder over Virg Bernero because we and Michigan’s small business owners believe that Rick Snyder’s experience as a leader in innovation and job creation gives him unique and valuable insight into what it will take to help Michigan excel in entrepreneur-centered economic development.

Michigan needs jobs, and jobs overwhelmingly come from economic gardening: the nurturing of successful, home-grown entrepreneurs. Rick Snyder is far and away the best choice for entrepreneurs, small business owners and anyone who works for a small business.

Vote NO on Proposal 1

SBAM has also taken a position urging a no vote on Proposal 1. Proposal 1 will ask the voters if there should be a constitutional convention (con-con) to look at re-writing the state’s Constitution.

We urge you to vote no on Proposal 1. We are part of a coalition called Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, made up of a wide array of business groups and other associations.

Our current Constitution was written is 1963 and as part of it the voters are asked every 16 year to vote on a constitutional convention. The proposal was defeated handily in both 1978 and 1994.

There are a number of reasons that SBAM is opposed to Proposal 1. But chief among them is a report from the Senate Fiscal Agency that estimates the cost of a Con-Con would be $45 million. The state has faced budgetary shortfalls for years and any additional costs would only lead to further cuts or tax increases that Michigan can ill afford right now.

There are other ways to amend the Constitution without the complete overhaul that a constitutional convention would call for. Extreme groups from both sides of the ideological spectrum would push for numerous changes that would possibly cause more harm than good.

Congressional Races to Watch

As election day approaches, Republicans on the federal level are looking to take over both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House. While Michigan’s Senators are not up for re-election this year, all of the House seats are. There are four Michigan seats that may be up for grabs.

In the 1st Congressional District, which covers the Upper Peninsula and a large portion of northern lower Michigan, Congressman Bart Stupak retired earlier in the year. That left this seat open and both parties are waging a serious campaign to win it.

The race features Democrat State Representative Gary McDowell against Republican Dan Benishek. Stupak has held this seat since 1993, so Republicans are looking at this seat as a possible pick-up. Both campaigns are very active and the latest polling shows Benishek with a 43-39 lead.

In the 7th Congressional District, which covers the Lansing, Battle Creek, Jackson areas and other southern mid-Michigan counties, first term Democrat Congressman Mark Schauer is fending off a re-match with former Republican Congressman Tim Walberg, whom Schauer defeated to win the seat in 2008.

The latest poll shows Schauer with a 44-40 lead.

In the 9th Congressional District, which covers parts of Oakland County, first-term Democrat Congressman Gary Peters is facing former State Representative Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski. The latest polling also shows this race to be neck-and neck.

No Money

By Nathan Peck | MiBiz WEST MICHIGAN

SBA loans, small business lending rise on improving economic news  Today’s level of small business loan activity over a year ago is another tentative sign that business owners’ confidence in the recovery is growing.

For the first six months of its fiscal year, Small Business Administration 7(a) loans are up 84 percent over a year ago to $234 million, up $76.5 million over the same period in 2009. Lenders are freeing up capital, albeit cautiously, and using continued government subsidies to help offset risk, said Allen Cook, assistant district director for lender relations at the SBA’s office in Detroit.

“We are seeing all different forms of financing here — from an increase in startups, businesses still in the process of overcoming some problems that they have, to businesses needing growth capital. It is all across the board and across all industries,” Cook said. “This is a sign of lenders’ willingness to providing more lending. They are looking to increase their commercial loan activity and looking harder at using SBA loans because of the (uncertain) financial times.”

The increased lending activity adds positive momentum to what is a somewhat mixed economic picture in terms of consumer activity. Economic indicators of consumers’ confidence in the recovery were split in April: the University of Michigan’s index of consumer confidence fell from March, while the Consumer Board’s index showed an increase.
Adding further murkiness to the picture, the U.S. Commerce Department released statistics showing that consumer spending rose in the first quarter of 2010 by the largest amount in three years.

As lenders have gotten more cautious about commercial lending, borrowers are finding it difficult at times to find banks willing to lend. Cook said that banks have historically differed relatively little in their commercial lending practices. Not so today. As banks work to lessen their risk, some are not looking at any business less than two years old while others are talking to any eligible candidates who meet their coverage, credit and collateral requirements.

“Those that are lending to startups are still looking at startups very hard, but willing to look,” Cook said. “It is hard to decipher where the lender is — it takes some perseverance on the part of borrowers.”

The Michigan Certified Development Corp., a nonprofit corporation, has seen 504 activity pick up over the last six months as businesses look to take advantage of drops in real estate prices. The size of loans has decreased slightly, dropping to an average of $1.1 million in 2010 from $1.3 million a year ago. The MCDC completed 56 transactions in 2009, and has more than doubled that in the last six months, having completed 126 transactions through April, Kelly Hutchings, senior loan officer, told MiBiz.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in activity. The value of transactions have come down some because businesses are looking to preserve more of their working capital,” Hutchings said. “We are seeing businesses that are taking advantage of the real estate market and are buying a building rather than leasing. There is not a lot of interest in purchasing equipment at this point.”

Huntington Bank is using SBA loans to garner market share in the small business market. The Columbus, Ohio-based bank was the fifth most active lender for SBA 504 loans, completing loans in Michigan totaling $105 million over the last six months. That’s part of its larger strategy in pledging $4 billion for small business loans in the Midwest. Participating in SBA lending gives Huntington the ability to provide business loans at the margins of the traditional underwriting standards, said Craig Street, national director of SBA lending for Huntington.

“SBA extends your ability to take

MCDC Sees Opportunities Increasing for Small Business

By Nathan Peck | MiBiz MICHIGAN — What a difference a year makes.

While uncertainty exists among bankers over whether or not Congress will approve another extension of the 90-percent guarantee and waived fees for Section 504 loans, Jane Sherzer, president of Michigan Certified Development Corp., said the credit situation has improved markedly over a year ago.

The subsidies that were part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 were able to kick-start small business lending, giving the organization an opportunity to gain market share, Sherzer said. The nonprofit corporation is certified by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to partner with banks to provide SBA 504 financing throughout the state. Through May 2010, the MCDC has completed $34.7 million in loans, compared to just $18 million for the same period a year ago.

Sherzer has worked in commercial banking in Michigan since the 1980s, and joined the MCDC in 2004. While the Michigan economy suffered a significant shock in 2008, the state has survived past recessions and will rebound, said Sherzer. Sherzer recently spoke with MiBiz about the growth in MCDC’s business and how investing in staffing late in 2008 is paying off today.

MiBiz: How did the MCDC respond to the recession?

Sherzer: We certainly benefited from the recovery act, and it subsidized most of the programs we administered. In the last year, we gained market share relative to our competition. The first half of 2009 was very slow, but looking at the second half of the year, we were on record pace. That pace has continued through the first five months of 2010. Overall, I am very happy with how our business has performed the last year and a half.

MiBiz: How did you gain market share?

Sherzer: We added two new loan officers to our staff late in 2008, at the peak of the cliff. We had nearly six months (of slow performance) after we added staff, and we were not seeing the results we wanted. Strategically, we felt we were doing the right thing. In our business it is really important to be present with our bankers. A lot of things are on their mind, and we felt it was very important to be with the bankers, in front of them. Putting people on the ground has been a successful strategy for us. We have many new opportunities for expanding. For us it was sticking our necks out with staffing at a difficult time, but we knew (the economy) would come back.

MiBiz: If the 90-percent guarantees and fee waivers are allowed to expire, what will be the impact on small business lending? Sherzer: Our loan officers are still really busy. All of them have three or four loans in our 30-day pipeline. Even without the fee subsidies, it is still a great loan program. Credit has eased somewhat in Michigan. There are still challenges that banks have to deal with. They are requiring higher equity injections into property transactions of 70 percent rather than 80 percent before. While I am concerned that as these loan queues start and stop there are some borrowers that are sensitive to this, the advantages are so great that even if the fees are not subsidized, it outweighs the increased fees.

Credit has eased. (Lending) is not where it was three years ago. It is not where it was a year ago either. We see banks are willing to lend to smaller businesses. Even though credit is still tight, banks still like the idea of the risk mitigation that the SBA brings.

MiBiz: What has you concerned for the rest of the year?

Sherzer: I am watching other legislation in Congress regarding the increased loan limits and allowing the refinancing of existing debt. Our national association has been lobbying to get that passed. It is something we’re hopeful will come to fruition. A lot of businesses that are facing renewals of existing loans are struggling

Background Checks Best Bet

(Reproduced with permission from Accident Fund Insurance Company of America)

There was once a time when a person could walk into a store, grab the “help wanted” sign from the window, and with as little as a handshake, walk out with a job. But the world keeps growing, the job pool keeps getting bigger and the times — well, they are a changin’. As people, we want to have faith in others, but as employers, we have to be especially cautious, as our hiring decisions affect many people. Hiring just anyone off the street is no longer a safe bet.

High stakes

Today making a snap hiring decision could leave you out of the hiring game for good. Statistics show that 30 to 40 percent of job applicants exaggerate or lie on applications and resumes. And Occupational Health and Safety Magazine states that “negligent hiring” lawsuits are on the rise. These suits implicate employers and hold them responsible for the actions of their employees. Industry statistics show that one poor hiring decision can cost a business as much as $100,000 or more.

Lay your money on the check

A much safer bet is the professionally done background check. They’re quick — typically taking between 48 and 72 hours to complete — and range in price from $100 to $200, depending on what information you want to find. The more comprehensive the search, the more it will cost. If you are a small business owner, the costs may seem high, but in the long run, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you are still concerned about the fees, go to and read “How to Avoid Hiring a Criminal for Under $20.00.”

Playing it safe

While there may have been a time when background checks were something employers did after the decision to hire was made, experts recommend that Human Resource departments and business owners take a new approach to the way they view the hiring process. Safe hiring is something all businesses should adopt as a way to protect their employees, their business and their time. Employment ads should state that background checks are performed. Policies and procedures should be in place regarding hiring processes and background checks, making sure that each applicant is handled in the same manner. Making it known that background checks are part of your hiring procedure will deter people with something to hide, and encourage those who wish to be considered, to lay all their cards on the table. In the long run, you will save yourself a great deal of time, money and effort by adopting a safe-hiring plan.

A winning hand

You simply can’t lose when taking a proactive approach to hiring. You will get the best candidate for the job while ensuring the safety of your workers and your business. Background checks are completely legal, if followed according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which protects job seekers and employers. Employers have a right to know whom they are hiring. Conducting background checks is your best bet for warding off unwanted job applicants and costly lawsuits.

This article was reproduced with permission from Accident Fund Insurance Company of America. Founded in 1912 and rated “A” (Excellent) by A.M. Best, Accident Fund offers low-cost group rates with a 5 percent up-front discount on workers compensation insurance as well as possible long-term dividends. For more information about SBAM’s program with the Accident Fund contact your independent insurance agent, or at the Accident Fund you may contact Theresa Ross (517) 281-9813 or Beth Goodman (517) 202-5121 for more information.