TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (7/22/09)--The economy dominated several sessions during the Michigan Credit Union League's Annual Convention and Exposition last week in Traverse City as Michigan's credit unions work with members affected by manufacturing cutbacks. Michigan State University Economics Prof. Charles Ballard explained an "economic transformation," comparing cyclical events such as a few years of a downward trends to a decade of losing jobs, which means something bigger is in play (Michigan Monitor July 20). "Manufacturing has been shrinking as a percentage of our economy for at least 50, maybe 60 years, so we really have been slow to adjust to those changes," he said. "I think we can stabilize the manufacturing portion of our economy, but it's never going to regain the kind of prominence it had in the 1950s, so we're going to have to find higher-tech, higher-skill ways of making a living." His suggestions for stabilizing the economy include a progressive income tax and the reduction or elimination of the Michigan Business Tax. MCUL President/CEO David Adams discussed strategies the league and credit unions will need to develop for the near future, as the economic downturn has lawmakers turning to increased regulations to prevent another crisis. "We need to keep trying to find alignment with public policy priorities to see how we can do even more," Adams said. "Right now there is a very pro-consumer sentiment, but we don't want too much regulation or unnecessary regulation," he said. He added that the league is "in the game to strike a good balance so [credit unions] can be as helpful as they can for the consumer on issues like foreclosure prevention and reigning in bad pricing practices in the broader financial services industry, while at the same time making sure they're able to operate freely and help our members and communities." Global strategist Mike Williams spoke about the opportunities for investment that the economic downturn presents. "What we do usually is we get too greedy and don't understand risk when we should," Williams said. "When things are really good is when they're the most risky. When things are really horrible, like right now, or the early 90s, or the early 80s, the risk is actually the smallest. Whenever we have perceived extremely difficult economic times, they have actually been the seeds of something great to come," he said.