A mix of economic optimism and the availability of capital should yield another strong year for acquisitions in 2017.
KALAMAZOO — One Southwest Michigan biotech company wants to leverage a little-known chemical compound to capitalize on the hydroponic and cannabis industries.
During a time when so many organizations are struggling to find talent, one Lansing-based nonprofit continues to offer jobs to people with disabilities. Since its founding in 1976, Peckham Inc. has operated under the premise that “people with disabilities are amazing workers but they often need some extra support around them to be successful,” said President and CEO Mitchell Tomlinson. Over the last two years, the organization has shifted some of its focus to providing training and opportunities for people with disabilities in the technology support field. Now, Peckham employs 150 people with disabilities in Grand Rapids working in I.T. help-desk positions and is in the process of hiring at least 30 more workers. Tomlinson spoke with MiBiz about Peckham’s decision to begin offering technology-support services and the opportunities those positions unlock for workers with disabilities.
MUSKEGON — After a career spent in a variety of management and sales roles in the packaging industry, Rich Wilson decided it was time to strike out on his own.
Despite the possibility of easing emissions regulations and historically low gasoline prices, LG Chem Michigan Inc. remains charged about the possibilities for electrified vehicles.
After a strong 2016, most West Michigan manufacturers are looking ahead to this year with optimism that they will continue to grow as the economy expands.
KALAMAZOO — A major expansion by Stryker Corp. could provide a welcome shot in the arm for Southwest Michigan’s life sciences sector.
Like many economic development leaders, Jennifer Owens of Lakeshore Advantage says talent concerns remain a key issue for businesses in 2017. Aside from attracting outside businesses, the organization primarily will focus on training, recruiting and retaining talent next year, she said. To do that, Lakeshore Advantage is pushing a campaign that promotes the region’s leisure opportunities as a way to attract workers. Owens told MiBiz to expect accelerated growth from manufacturers of automation equipment in the coming year and said she’s also “very bullish” on the food processing sector.
When it comes to the economy in 2017, Grand Valley State University’s Paul Isely largely expects business as usual. However, the associate dean and professor of economics at the Seidman College of Business notes that rising wage pressures on businesses may start pulling the economy into a recession in 2018. While he expects the economy to remain robust, Isely told MiBiz he worries what the incoming presidential administration’s trade and immigration policies could do to businesses in West Michigan in 2017 and beyond.
While Michigan economic developers have long focused on attracting businesses to the state, Dean Whittaker believes those organizations will increasingly need to focus instead on talent attraction. The president of Holland-based Whittaker Associates Inc. spoke to MiBiz about how a lack of available talent could affect companies and what’s being done to attract more workers to Michigan.
Talent will continue to reign as the top issue Southwest Michigan First needs to tackle in 2017, according to CEO Ron Kitchens. He believes that the future of communities will depend on their ability to attract and retain Generation X and Millennial workers. To do that, his organization plans to integrate some of its employees into universities around the region, advocate for affordable downtown housing and promote an “open culture,” he said. Kitchens spoke with MiBiz about how economic developers’ jobs are shifting to focus on talent.
In 2016, The Right Place Inc. attracted $240.6 million in new capital investment through 19 projects across West Michigan. Although the Grand Rapids-based economic development organization fell short of its three-year goals for jobs and payroll growth, President and CEO Birgit Klohs remains optimistic about Michigan’s economy. Klohs expects to attract more high-tech jobs and industries to the state while continuing to work with companies to find available talent in the region. Klohs discussed with MiBiz some of the issues that West Michigan employers and economic development professionals will face in the coming year.
To say Aaron Zeigler is optimistic may be an understatement. Zeigler Auto Group recently topped $1 billion in annual revenue and expects to add another $50 million in revenue before the close of this year. By March, the organization hopes to finish construction on a motorsports dealership and “action park” — complete with a full restaurant, bar and several miles of test tracks — that will serve as a destination for enthusiasts, said Zeigler, the president of the dealership group. He projects growth by acquisition to continue to heat up in 2017. “We could add another three to four dealers next year pretty easily,” he said. Overall, Zeigler bets the economy will likely continue to grow, particularly if the incoming administration fulfills its promises to cut taxes.
Earlier this month, Spartan Motors Inc. struck a $36 million deal with fire truck manufacturer Smeal Fire Apparatus Co. The deal marks a turnaround for the company’s emergency response business, which has struggled financially in the past, according to President and CEO Daryl Adams. For the first time since 2008, Charlotte-based Spartan Motors is on track to be profitable for all four quarters in 2016 and Adams believes the Smeal acquisition will better position the company in the coming year. Moreover, Adams noted that Spartan Motors’ fleet/delivery and specialty chassis divisions remain open to acquisitions if the right opportunities emerge.
Gavin Brown, the executive director of the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA), expects strong production of both commercial and military aircraft continuing into 2017. As demand for long-range aircraft like the Boeing 777 increases, large OEMs will be eying ways to cut costs through production. For West Michigan manufacturers, that presents an opportunity for companies that can adapt to the latest technology and work cost-cutting measures into production, Brown said. However, uncertainty over the trade policies for the incoming presidential administration could cause pain for companies such as Boeing, which plans to sell more aircraft to countries including Iran and Russia. Brown spoke with MiBiz regarding the opportunities and challenges for aerospace suppliers going into 2017.
While some industry professionals have raised concerns over subprime lending, rising inventories, incentives and other trends pointing to a downturn in the automotive cycle, the industry should remain healthy in the coming years. That’s according to Mike Wall, director of automotive analysis at IHS Automotive in Grand Rapids, who forecasts North American light vehicle production to close at 17.8 million units this year. While 2017 production is projected to slide to 17.6 million units, he expects it will inch up to 18 million units in 2018 and peak at 18.7 million units in 2020 as new facilities in Mexico come online. Wall spoke with MiBiz about what automotive suppliers in West Michigan should expect in the new year.
Even with the underlying uncertainty caused by the presidential election, West Michigan manufacturers remain generally optimistic about the year ahead.
As Michigan’s senior U.S. Senator, Debbie Stabenow plans to continue focusing on issues pertaining to small businesses, manufacturing and agriculture. Going into 2017, Stabenow expects to work on legislation that would improve tax credits for small manufacturers, as well as prepare to draft the upcoming Farm Bill. Stabenow spoke with MiBiz about her priorities and outlook for the upcoming year.
Moving into 2017, Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters plans to focus his efforts on cultivating Michigan as a hub for autonomous vehicle technology. For Peters, the state’s future hinges on growing Michigan’s ability to attract investment in autonomous technology. On the other hand, Peters worries that the president-elect’s hands-on economic development policies could leave behind small businesses in the state and elsewhere in the country. Peters spoke with MiBiz about his views on the year ahead and the challenges 2017 may bring.
Heightened volatility in order patterns coupled with uncertainty in the global economy and geopolitical environment contributed to flat performance at Herman Miller Inc.
Wolverine World Wide Inc. is preparing to bid on a military contract that could result in it producing the Saucony brand of athletic shoe at its Big Rapids facility.
State House lawmakers killed a Senate bill earlier this month that would have provided sportsman’s clubs an exemption from state and local property taxes.
While beginning farmers often start their operations with a passion for local food and agriculture, many struggle with the day-to-day financials and other intricacies of running a business. Tom Cary, manager of the Beginning Farmer Program at Michigan State University, aims to remedy that. The program hosts a series of Farmer Field School workshops to help prepare people to manage the business side of their farms. The program will hold a farm labor roundtable to discuss best practices in attracting, retaining and managing employees on Wednesday, Dec. 14 from 1-4 p.m. at the MSU Student Organic Farm at 3291 College Road in Holt. Cary spoke with MiBiz prior to the workshop about some of the main issues facing new farmers.
NEW TROY — After a large bet on the oil and gas industry went south several years ago, Vickers Engineering Inc. struggled to position itself for growth.
After months of depressed oil prices, West Michigan manufacturers with operations in the oil-and-gas industry could soon experience a reprieve.
KALAMAZOO — The U.S. Air Force could rely on satellites designed by Western Michigan University students to diagnose issues with high-tech propulsion systems in space.
KALAMAZOO — When Folia Water Inc. sought to partner with a paper manufacturer to advance its water filtration technology from the initial proof of concept phase, the company faced a dilemma.
GRAND RAPIDS — When hackers shut down popular websites including Twitter and Spotify in October, they enlisted myriad devices, ranging from coffee makers and appliances to webcams, to carry out the attack.
LANSING — The Michigan Economic Development Corp. could expand its toolbox of incentives under a proposed payroll tax abatement program.