While economists have seemingly no problem blaming worse than expected first quarter economic performance on last winter’s terrible weather, people overlook the effect Michigan’s other season – construction – can have on small businesses.

Right now in our neck of Grand Rapids there are at least two major construction projects. City workers have torn up Monroe Avenue and are working on putting in four new roundabouts. Additionally, Ann Street has been closed at Turner and the city has ripped up the merge lane so all traffic must turn at the light. As the entrance to southbound 131 is off Turner, there is some major congestion on Ann right now. Coit has picked up quite a bit of the slack from the closure of Monroe. It’s a mess. Fortunately, Monroe is mainly residential.

Summer construction, while necessary, is frustrating for everyone. The logic behind the closures always seems opaque. Two roads running parallel to each other may both be closed along with another nearby, but whole areas will go untouched by machine or asphalt. Construction makes people late for work, construction lengthens everyone’s time in traffic, and construction sometimes puts companies out of business.

Two years ago when Plainfield was being repaved and those new bio-retention islands were being installed, we were all pleased to see the beautification of that stretch of road when the project was complete. But how many of us realized that, with traffic entirely rerouted and the road fully closed, businesses were struggling to keep their doors open? At the time my auto repair shop manager told my husband that he would be lucky if they survived the construction, so much did their customer’s lack of access cut into their bottom line. I barely used the library all summer because it was such a pain to get to the Van Belkum branch, and the library was located on the periphery of the construction area. How many other businesses suffer?

If your business loses customers because of road repair, and you have no other ways to generate income except with your walk-in clients, you have a real problem. Road crews aren’t accountable to anyone except whoever is paying their bills. This is often the government, and government can be fairly obtuse about profit and loss, unless it concerns tax revenue. Small businesses can purchase business interruption insurance or add it to their existing business insurance coverage, but businesses often do not consider the disastrous effect a prolonged road closure could have on their bottom line, and many small businesses have such thin margins anyway, they can’t afford any additional expenses.

If your favorite store happens to be in an area plagued with construction this or any other summer, make an effort to continue with your patronage even if it’s a hassle. If you do not, there’s no guarantee it will still be in business when that shiny new asphalt is finally poured and hardened. And under these circumstances, chances are the owner will be so glad to get your business, he will give you even better service than he usually does.