Say "bye-bye" to foreign products and buy Michigan!
That’s what the owners of more than 30 Michigan-based companies and non-profits are hoping customers will do. They featured their products at the Great Lakes Showcase at the Southfield Westin Hotel on Monday.
“If Michigan people buy Michigan stuff, the economy will improve for everyone. It’s really simple and basic—but true,” said Rejeana Heinrich of Standish, MI, a self-proclaimed sisterprenuer, who in conjunction with her two sisters launched Michigan-Made.com, a website dedicated to selling only Michigan-made products.
The Buy Michigan campaign, which is supported by Gov. Rick Snyder, has paid off for Michigan-Made.com, which has seen a 400 percent sales growth in the past year.
In 2011, Snyder, along with top Michigan business executives, launched a $3 billion initiative called Pure Michigan Business Connect to increase purchasing from Michigan companies, help businesses access additional capital and obtain other assistance.
Now, many of the companies featured at the Great Lakes Showcase are feeling the trickle-down effect of the Michigan-centric initiative.
“He (Gov. Snyder) has made it very easy here for small businesses to work in Michigan,” said Ed Girrbach with Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. of Traverse City.
In fact, the Buy Michigan campaign is so strong now that Girrbach said even large retailers such as Walmart, Kroger and Meijer are pining to have locally made products line the chain stores’ shelves.
The Great Lakes Potato Chips Co. is gearing up for its biggest year yet since its launch in 2009 as it prepares to enter Kroger food chains across Michigan this spring.
Tom Sesti, President of Bandals Footwear, added that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has been instrumental in helping him launch the Rochester Hills-based company that creates stylish interchangeable sandasl worldwide.
Shane Pliska, President of Planterra, a West Bloomfield interior landscape design firm that recently expanded its location to include an 11,000-square-foot conservatory to host formal receptions, said he has not hit major roadblocks at a state-level, but rather at a city level.
“Most of my issues come from the city, which are often more stringent than state regulators.”
Planterra recently obtained a liquor license and worked with West Bloomfield to expand its retail and botanical garden spaces.
“There are too many cops—and I’m not speaking in terms of actual police officers. Rather, city codes, and agencies that often duplicate your workload,” he added. “It’s like they need Google to help organize it all.”
Economy Forces Entrepreneurs to Get Creative
Many of the businesses featured at the Great Lakes Showcase were only a few years old, born from the creativity of ingenious former autoworkers and entrepreneurs at heart.
Sheila Ann Wright left her job as auto engineer several years ago to be a stay-at-home mom. As her children started leaving for school, Williams was left with a houseful of toys, and a longing to send sweet messages to her children. So she created a recordable backpack charm to send her children reminders to eat their lunch or just a simple “I love you.” Wright named her toy creation company the Ann Williams Group, after her children, and patented the Talkatoo.
Now, the stay-at-home mom and toy tycoon is on her third creation, the Loopdedoo, a device that helps make friendship bracelets in minutes, which is sold online and at the Doll Hospital and Toy Soldier Shop in Berkley.
Wright said she has found many talented local people in the design sector because of the heavy automotive background to help her launch the Ann Williams Group.
Chris George, vice president of Hard Luck Candy Vodka in St. Clair Shores, said the woes of the auto industry have forced the state to pour more money into diversifying the economy, which has been good for his business.