What does the election mean to Michigan, and particularly Michigan business?

With 99 percent of Michigan’s vote counted and 6.7 percent more Michiganders having voted for President-elect Barack Obama than voted for John Kerry in 2004, Corp! wanted to know how the results of the election may affect Michigan business.

We asked Governor Jennifer Granholm for her thoughts and she replied: “With the election of Barack Obama, Michigan will finally have a partner in the White House who will provide the leadership that we have so long needed to make the transition to create jobs and reinvigorate our economy. After eight years of an administration that has turned its back on us at every turn, we will have an ally in the White House who shares our priorities -“ supporting our manufacturers, investing in new energy jobs and technology and making health care affordable and accessible to every citizen.”

Jon Smith, president and CEO of Kindel Furniture in Grand Rapids [see cover story] told us: “I believe the global economic agenda will drive the actions of the Obama presidency during its first 12 months with a goal of minimizing the impact of a global recession. I believe that will lead us to job creation and economic growth in Western Michigan as the various stimulus activities of the government take hold in our market. We are in unprecedented economic times and we must be proactive and thoughtful in making Michigan an environment that is attractive to business creation and growth as well as an exciting place for young, well-educated people to want to live.”

Joseph Mandeville

Joseph Mandeville, president of Shelby Township’s Elite Mold and Engineering, pointed out that, “In 2008, we saw large and small investors hit with heavy losses in the stock market. Our country’s banks are crippled with mounting mortgage defaults. The new President’s highest priority should be to solve this problem by looking for ways to create new capital. Putting people back to work in manufacturing is critical to turning a recession around. For their own survival, large corporations need their small business supply chains. President Obama must supply government help to the banks and large corporations that can prove that money they receive is used to support jobs in our U.S. manufacturing base.”

Famed national pollster John Zogby has an op-ed article in the November issue of Politics magazine in which he anticipated that 132 million to 135 million voters would go to the polls [136.6 million actually did, a 64.1 percent turnout rate and the highest ever for a presidential election -“ the second-highest was in 1908.] “Many of these are first-time voting young people and minorities. These are voters with very high expectations. They demand action on the environment, health care, pension reform, energy independence and, of course, the economy.”

Tom Beck

Tom Beck, president of Enlighten, a nationally-known Ann Arbor Internet production firm, doesn’t fit in those categories, but also has high expectations. “The moment is historic and there is nothing we can say here that will add to or subtract from this simple, profound fact. Our ability as a nation to confront the challenges that lie ahead rests entirely in our willingness to see the world not as a political game to be won or lost but as a human story that connects us all. Last night, the nation embraced a future of hope, unity, and shared responsibility, and it is, I believe, the beginning of a promising new chapter in our lives as individuals, as Americans, and as citizens of this planet.”

Debi Scroggins

The election not only brought a boost to the polls, but an uptick in business for at least one Michigan business. Debi Scroggins, founder of The Bearclaw Coffee Co. based in Chelsea said: “The excellent weather combined with high voter turnout drove many new and loyal customers to our locations where they shared the excitement of the day.We were able to supply onsite coffee for many polling locations and offer our product to poll workers and voters alike. This offered an excellent opportunity to further enhance brand awareness for the Bearclaw Coffee Company and also provided us a chance to participate in this historic day.”

Inforum, Michigan’s largest professional organization for women, with more than 2,000 members, held an informal poll of its members a week before the election and 62.8 percent supported Barack Obama and Joe Biden as opposed to less than a third for John McCain and Sarah Palin. Normally, the respondents are almost evenly split between self-reporting Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Some of their comments also showed high expectations for the new administration. “Barack Obama has an economic agenda that aligns more with my own. He has also shown a high level of intelligence and intellectual curiosity, which I believe our country needs in a leader,” said one. Another commented: “Obama’s philosophy is that it’s important to help your fellow man (emphasis on youth volunteerism, tax credits for the middle class, etc.). I’m also sold on his policies for education and women’s issues, his desire to pull out of Iraq and his realistic optimism.”

Laurie E. Riegle of Armstrong/Robitaille/Riegle had an up-close look at this year’s election. “This has certainly been the most important election of my lifetime. This election is a transformative event in our lives, where Americans have shown through their votes that we are ready to move forward in a different and new direction. I have been lucky to have been a part of the Obama campaign throughout the primary and general elections. In working the polls last evening, as a greeter, I was so impressed by all of the young people, and diversity, of the voters. We had 80 percent of our precinct vote in by 6:30 p.m. The Obama campaign has been extraordinarily effective in reaching out to recruit unlikely supporters/campaigners, like me. We all benefit from the tremendous amount of excitement and energy generated by so many young people and new voters, who now have become a part of our democracy, by exercising their right to vote. This election is truly historic, in many ways. It is true Barack Obama is transformative as our first African American President. Also, he has effectively made this campaign about us — not him. And his campaign has reached out through the Internet to million of voters/donors. He beat the Clinton machine, and has turned Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and Florida into blue states. This ‘movement’ has indeed brought people together: old, young, Hispanic/Latino, black, white, women and men. We personally know many Republicans that have voted for Obama. He has indeed succeeded in bringing a diverse coalition of people together. He will surely need this coalition to meet the myriad of challenges we face a nation and as a world. We are ready to move forward, to turn the page, and to work together to solve the very real problems we face as a nation. Obama has shown us that we can accomplish anything, if we work together.”

John Zogby tries to clarify what reality might bring, to the country as a whole and thus to Michigan, “What direction will his changes go in? It is truly hard to say. There’s really very little consensus on the specifics, though actions like government spending for alternative energy and the creation of green-collar jobs have strong support across the board. But this is not a time to worry about specifics. Franklin Roosevelt did not campaign on a New Deal agenda; the New Deal actually was a patchwork of trial-and-error efforts after Roosevelt assumed office. In the final analysis, the new president will have to read the election results, build a consensus–both on Capitol Hill and among the general public–and forge ahead.”

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Richard Blanchard
Rick is the Managing Editor of Corp! magazine. He has worked in reporting and editing roles at the Port Huron Times Herald, Lansing State Journal and The Detroit News, where he was most recently assistant business editor. A native of Michigan, Richard also worked in Washington state as a reporter, photographer and editor at the Anacortes American. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan and a master’s in accountancy from the University of Phoenix.