Conference focuses on business climate in state

doc4ad84a95328ff6273604341.jpgBy JOSEPH SZCZESNY
Of The Oakland Press

The Oakland Press/VAUGHN GURGANIAN Speaker of the House Andy Dillon (left) speaks to the audience at the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce annual luncheon as Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano listens at Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfi eld Township.

The Chaldean Chamber of Commerce has moved into new quarters on a busy stretch of Northwestern Highway as its steps up its activity in both the business world and the community.

Several hundred guests turned out for the Chaldean Chamber’s fourth annual Business Luncheon Thursday for discussion on “The Future of Michigan’s Economy,” featuring an influential panel that included Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, Speaker of The House Andy Dillon, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Dominos Pizza Chief Executive Officer David Brandon.

Cox, who also is pursuing the Republican nomination for governor, said he favored cutting the Michigan Business Tax in half, which would benefit small benefit business owners across the board. “I don’t believe government can pick winners or losers,” he said.

Brandon said Michigan needs to change its overall business climate to make it more attractive to businesses already based in Michigan.

Right now, the business climate makes it difficult to justify building a new plant in Michigan.

The current climate costs the average business in Michigan up to four points of profit, which can spell the difference between success and failure.

Ficano stressed that cooperation across traditional political boundaries is one of the keys to helping revive the regional economy.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport now has more than 4,000 employees, half of whom live in Wayne County.

Promoting Metro Airport as a logistics hub, as Wayne County is attempting to do, takes nothing away from surrounding communities but could create thousands of new jobs by making it an alternative destination to freight forwarders, which now use Chicago by default, Ficano said.

The airport could be a genuine engine for growth in the area just like airports in Europe and in places such as China and Dubai.

Dillon said a way has to be found to put the state on a sound financial footings. Business wants certainty but “for the last six years there has been no certainty” because of the recurring budget crisis in Lansing.

“We need more Chaldeans in this state,” said Dillon, who Michigan’s new economy will depend more than ever on entrepreneurs. “The Chaldean community has real entrepreneurial spirit,” he said.

Martin Manna, the Chaldean Chamber’s executive director, said the chamber now has close to 1,000 members and is very active in the community.

“We get all kinds of requests that don’t have anything to do with business, but have to do with the community,” Manna said.

Most of the community revolves around the fallout from the war in Iraq, which has forced thousands of Chaldeans, who are Catholic, not Muslim, out of their traditional homes and forced them into refugee camps in the Middle East.

The U.S. government is slowly letting refugees re-settle in the United States and more are expected.

So far, more than 20,000 Chaldeans have come to the Detroit area, he said.

“Usually, what happens is the government puts them somewhere else but there is a secondary migration to the Detroit area because that is where their relatives are and their support system is here,” Manna said.