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Sunday, 16 August 2015 22:00

Muskegon County posts continued jobs gains

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MUSKEGON — A new report shows continued, modest jobs growth for Muskegon County.

The Economic Development Update report released in late-July by Muskegon Area First and conducted by Kalamazoo-based W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research shows that employers have added more than 1,500 jobs in the county since the second quarter of 2014.

Those gains came in the manufacturing, education and health services sectors, as well as in leisure and hospitality.

The Upjohn Institute also revised upward its forecast for the year for the county’s job growth from 1.4 percent to 1.5 percent based on the job growth from the first half of the year, the report said.

“The report substantiates what we are seeing in the field,” said Ed Garner, president and CEO of Muskegon Area First. “The companies we are talking to are looking to add people. My prediction: If things continue, we may supersede the (Upjohn Institute’s employment) mark.”

Garner went on to note that while economic indicators remain positive, the Muskegon area’s role as a lakeshore tourist destination helps boost jobs numbers in the summer months, and there is strong possibility that some of the job numbers will “taper off in the fall.”

“In my opinion, manufacturing and health care are leading the (employment) charge,” Garner said, referring to the current trends in the region.

Unemployment in Muskegon County stood at 6.1 percent as of June, while the national unemployment rate has remained steady at 5.3 percent in recent months, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Statewide, the unemployment rate in June was 5.5 percent. By comparison, Kent County’s unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, while Ottawa County’s was 4 percent.

Looking ahead, stakeholders including Garner hope that a new collaborative economic development initiative can help push job creation numbers in the region even higher. Dubbed “Project Greenlight,” the initiative is aimed at marketing seven of West Michigan’s prime industrial development sites with a focus on targeting companies in need of multi-modal transportation — or as Garner put it, “logistics-sensitive companies.”

As MiBiz reported in July, Muskegon boasts two sites — the Port of Muskegon and the Muskegon County Business Park North — that are being marketed for their proximity to highway, air, train and water transportation.

The initiative is a collaborative effort of local governments, Muskegon Area First and The Right Place Inc. in Grand Rapids. The project launched as an offshoot of the West Michigan Economic Partnership that began in 2010.

“These properties are meant for companies to build something on … and they need multiple modes (of transportation) to get there,” Garner said. “They may produce products that are large in scale. It could be transformers or wind turbine blades.”

While the impact on job creation for Project Greenlight remains unknown, Garner said his organization remains in preliminary conversations with a handful of unnamed companies interested in the area.

Muskegon Area First has no minimum job creation requirements for companies looking to expand or move to the sites, but Garner is confident that the two properties will attract significant employers.

“It’s going to be an adequate amount of jobs,” he said. “We are looking for long-term sustainable jobs and anything that locates on those properties will bring that kind of employment to the area.”

Read 2867 times Last modified on Tuesday, 18 August 2015 16:38

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