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Mark Sanchez

Mark Sanchez

Senior Writer

msanchez@mibiz.com

In looking ahead to 2015, President Tom Haas points to Grand Valley State University’s annual $730 million economic impact on West Michigan and notes that 90 percent of its graduates are employed or enrolled in graduate school. Of those, 86 percent are working in West Michigan, which further illustrates GVSU’s role in the West Michigan economy.

George Erickcek predicts continued strong employment growth in West Michigan for 2015, led by manufacturing and construction jobs, before an easing the following year. The senior regional analyst with the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Erickcek projects overall employment growth of 3.2 percent next year. He projects goods-producing jobs alone to grow by 4.8 percent across a four-county region of the Grand Rapids area that includes Kent, Ionia, Barry and Newaygo counties, driven by continued strong automotive and truck production that will keep suppliers busy. In 2014, the region’s economy grew by what Erickcek calls a “truly phenomenal” rate of 3.8 percent, led by a 5.8 percent gain in goods-producing jobs and 3.4 percent growth in service jobs. He spoke with MiBiz about the drivers for growth and the potential headwinds on the horizon for 2015.

Forecasters generally see improved economic performance for both the U.S. and Michigan in 2015, further driving down unemployment rates.

Interest rates in 2015 will likely begin moving up from their historic low levels, although they should still remain relatively low, economists say.

The seller’s market that prevailed throughout 2014 should remain in 2015, providing business owners with a good opportunity to find the right buyer and to get a good price for their companies.

Chemical Financial Corp. Chairman, President and CEO David Ramaker expects that 2015 will bring even better economic conditions to Michigan, as well as more bank consolidation. The Midland-based Chemical Financial has been a player in the consolidation trend of the last year, buying Northwestern Bancorp Inc. in Traverse City this fall and then signing a deal to acquire Monarch Community Bank in Coldwater that will close in the first quarter of 2015. In a conversation with MiBiz, Ramaker said Chemical Financial intends to remain active in seeking deals in 2015.

Small business owners will have a better economy working in their favor in 2015, which generates what is actually a good problem to have: Namely, they all face increased competition for talent because more companies are hiring. That’s just one of the issues raised by Rob Fowler, the president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan. He spoke with MiBiz about the prospects for small business owners in 2015.

Just because more people are getting health coverage through the Affordable Care Act doesn’t necessarily mean they have easier access to the care they need. Care providers need to ensure they have the right capacity so people can get to see a doctor when they need it, said Bill Manns, the president of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids. The move to high-deductible health plans also has some people still struggling to access health care because they can’t afford to pay the deductible. Manns spoke with MiBiz about why those issues need attention in 2015.

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