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While talent development and some legislative reforms may prove to be challenges, West Michigan chambers of commerce executives feel confident looking ahead to 2015 as they project increased business investment in their individual communities.

It’s no secret that West Michigan collectively fawns over itself every time we make a new “best of” list telling us how good we are.

Q&A: Gov. Rick Snyder

Written by | Sunday, 21 December 2014 22:00 |

Gov. Rick Snyder views workforce development as the next key area for further improving Michigan’s business climate.

Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C. don’t see eye to eye on much these days.

Crystal Ball 2015: Yang Kim, Peopledesign

Written by | Sunday, 21 December 2014 22:00 |

After a period in which companies across the board slashed their marketing budgets during and after the recession, the improving business climate of late has caused executives to loosen the purse strings, leading to a significant reinvestment in advertising, said Yang Kim of Peopledesign in Grand Rapids. Increasingly, the better economy has also led companies from a variety of industries to look at marketing as a strategy to remain competitive.

The Grand Rapids-based Warner Norcross & Judd law firm expanded further across Michigan in 2014 with the opening law offices in Kalamazoo and Southfield, plus the formation of a data solutions group to work with clients to manage data and electronic documents to ensure compliance with rules and regulations.

Goodwill Industries helps people within the West Michigan area achieve self-sufficiency. It does this through career services and training resources, various Goodwill stores and the Blue Spoon catering and event planning hospitality work experience program. With last winter’s harsh weather conditions, donations were down, so Goodwill had to get creative in making it easier for people to donate.

At a time when many energy-based companies are diversifying into the gas and oil industries, Dan Scripps, a former State Representative who now leads the trade association Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, sees alternative and advanced energy sources such as solar, wind and biodigesters becoming a more prevalent part of the energy mix, even amid regulatory uncertainties.

With the construction of a new downtown campus located in the former Muskegon Chronicle building expected to begin in 2015, as well as a continued focus on Muskegon Community College’s core curriculum, Dale Nesbary says the school expects a year of investment, leading to minimal growth in its primary revenue sources.

Increasingly confident consumers with more cash in their pockets have Diane Maher optimistic about the automotive retail market going into next year. The firm’s Grand Rapids-based Fox Motor Group LLC — a so-called ‘mega dealer’ that generated $631 million in sales last year — sells 43 brands at two dozen locations in Grand Rapids, northern Michigan and Chicago.

Mark Miller took on the role of CEO at Cascade Engineering Inc. in September after founder Fred Keller stepped down from the company’s day-to-day operations. The manufacturer of plastic injection moldings and components for a multitude of industries, including automotive and renewable energy, plans to see double-digit growth in 2015. While strong commodity prices are creating some headwinds, the company’s overarching concern is talent.

The Hispanic Center has been providing unmet social services to West Michigan’s Hispanic community since 1978. That’s important because over the last 14 years, Kent County’s Hispanic population has grown 45 percent. The Hispanic Center offers family services, GED programs, language services and more. The organization hosts the annual Hispanic Festival in downtown Grand Rapids, which features music, food and, new this year, the Mercado, a showcase of local artists in the Hispanic community.

Amid planning for a year of double-digit growth in revenue and single-digit growth in new hires, Meredith Bronk wants OST to be involved in state, local and university-level training initiatives. She also believes that for the company to succeed, Grand Rapids must be a desirable, urban place.

2015 could be a transformative year for downtown Grand Rapids, says Kris Larson. With a number of new downtown living options expected to come online in the coming year, the central business district’s population is on the rise, which could spur new retail and entertainment options.

With a growth strategy that involves expanding its workforce through full-time employees as well as temporary workers at Owen-Ames-Kimball, Frank Stanek says he sees a good year ahead for the construction industry. With a diversified roster of clients in both Michigan and Florida, the general contractor has found growth in K-12 and higher education, commercial projects and religious institutions. The company expects single-digit growth in both its revenues and its number of employees.

West Michigan has proven it can sustain a myriad of semi-professional sports teams such as the Grand Rapids Griffins, West Michigan Whitecaps, Kalamazoo Wings and others. But over the past few years, the region has also become an attractive destination for national-scale youth and amateur sports. Mike Guswiler is tasked with promoting the area as a viable venue for such events. The West Michigan Sports Commission has a long list of local and national events on the docket for 2015.

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