Michigan Business Leaders Expect Robust Economic Recovery, Return to Partial In-Person Work

Man in business suit walking on crosswalk in city
by Scott McClallen


Michigan’s business leaders anticipate robust growth in the state’s economy within the next year.

They also plan a return to in-person office work in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2021, according to a quarterly economic survey completed by Business Leaders for Michigan.

Approximately 92% of survey respondents say the state’s economy will likely remain strong and growing during the next six to 12 months.

“With our progress on vaccination and the influx of federal stimulus dollars into Michigan, the state’s largest employers are predicting a strong period of economic growth,” Jeff Donofrio, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, said in a statement. “Whether that growth will be sustained depends on if our state’s policymakers invest federal stimulus funding strategically to make Michigan more competitive in the future.”

The state last week exceeded 55% of Michiganders ages 16 and older injected with a first vaccine dose, meaning remote work will no longer be mandatory after May 24th

“Even with the removal of restrictions on in-person office work, most businesses – nearly 80 percent – are planning for a gradual return,” Donofrio said. “Employers continue to be focused on making sure workplaces are safe and that employees have more flexibility in how and where they work, even after in-person office work returns. They also know that expanded childcare options and in-person instruction at K-12 schools is necessary for many employees to return to the physical workspace.”

The benchmark follows 14 months of workers disappearing from downtowns statewide as they worked from home, depriving local downtown businesses of vital foot traffic.

While surveyed executives said they believe the vast majority of Michigan workers will return to the office post-COVID, 93% of employers plan to offer hybrid work models to some staff. Almost a third of employers say 50% or more of employees will work in hybrid mode.

About 70% of businesses expect their real estate footprint to remain the same or increase, with 27% planning to decrease their physical space in the coming year.

Other significant survey findings include:

  • More than 90% of the state’s business leaders expect to maintain or grow employment and capital investment during the next 6–12 months.
  • More than 94% of business leaders anticipate the U.S. economy to remain strong and growing during the following year.
  • Currently, 67% of executives surveyed say more than half of their employees are still working remotely.

Business Leaders for Michigan conducted the internal member survey in late April and early May of 2021.

However, it’s unclear whether Michigan will beat the next vaccine benchmarks.

When the state hits 60% plus two weeks, the following restrictions will be relaxed:

  • Increased indoor sports stadium capacity indoor to 25%;
  • Increased indoor capacity at conference centers/banquet halls/funeral homes to 25% (up from a 25-person capacity);
  • Increased capacity at exercise facilities and gyms to 50%, up from 30%;
  • 11 p.m. curfew on restaurants and bars

If the state reaches 65% of Michiganders (5.2 million), plus two weeks, the state says it will lift all indoor capacity limits. Social distancing will still be required between parties. Residential social gatherings will also be relaxed.

But Michigan must reach 70% of Michiganders having received a first vaccine before all restrictions are dropped, a benchmark it might not reach. Either way, Whitmer’s newest order drops the broad indoor mask mandate after July 1.

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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.










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