BATTLE CREEK, Mich. - Gallagher Uniform is nothing like your laundry room at home.
Processing 15,000 garments a week and sending out 12 delivery trucks daily, the family-owned company serves some 440 customers throughout southwest Michigan and northern Indiana with industrial work-uniform services. It was one of about 30 businesses that have been visited so far by state officials as the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs works to make government regulations more efficient and more transparent for businesses.
"Our customers are you guys," LARA Director Steve Arwood told co-owners John and Pat Gallagher. "Not the process of government. And so we've really have taken on a top-to-bottom look at every department to try to streamline doing the core regulations - core protection of the public and workers obviously, that's very important to us - but really, try to look and see how we can just get things quicker, faster, more transparent, more efficient, so we can move at your speed."
In this recent photo, Gallagher Uniform owner John Gallagher, right, gestures while giving Steve Arwood, director of Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, a tour of the facility in downstate Battle Creek. (AP photo)
LARA has implemented its Reinventing Performance in Michigan process, an effort that it hopes Michigan as one of the top business-friendly states. Since launching the initiative nearly three years ago, the department said it has reduced the number of forms by 44 percent, cut processing times by 76 percent and improved businesses' perception of the state's regulatory climate by 24 percent.
Started in Detroit in 1893 and expanded to Battle Creek in 1937, Gallagher Uniform rents out, cleans and sells apparel, towels and mats. It invested more than $1 million late last year to expand its facility at 151 McQuiston Drive. John Gallagher said the company aims to grow by 10 percent to 15 percent annually.
The owners applauded the state's efforts, saying it was a "refreshing" take from government. While they haven't had much trouble with state regulations, they said, their biggest issue has been finding talent.
The company is currently hiring for five positions, including sales manager and route service supervisor.
"They're all good-paying jobs that comes with a good package of benefits and hours, the whole bit," Pat Gallagher said. "And we work at it every day with a person on-staff that does just recruiting. We've expanded our outreach and how we try to go about getting people, a lot of social networking with LinkedIn, looking for recruiters."
Arwood said it's the top issue he hears from businesses, saying the state previously focused too much on four-year college degrees for its workforce and not enough training for skilled trades.
Skilled workers are in high demand, Battle Creek Unlimited President and CEO Karl Dehn said.
"It's challenging and that's where we're spending a lot of time on, workforce development," he said, "working not only with re-skilling or retraining the adult population that needs to bring its skills up to date with the way technology is moving for all of our companies, but also the pipeline of people coming through the school system and making sure they're getting relevant education that's going to transfer to a career."
LARA has aimed for a 25 percent improvement in customer satisfaction, and a 50 percent reduction in forms. It has also set a goal for a 50 percent improvement in customer-response time.
What has worked, Arwood said, is working collaboratively with businesses and listening to owners.
"Government is always going to create more government and we're the implementing side," he said. "So how do we do a better job at keeping you guys running and growing and creating wealth for the state. Because that's the end-of-the-day game, more better jobs and continuing the economic improvement. My goal is to interfere with that as little as possible."