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Jayson Bussa

Jayson Bussa

Senior Editor

[email protected]

As manufacturing continues to lead both in statewide and nationwide economic recovery, the sector will still need to address a chronic issue that has only worsened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Few local executives can provide a better view of the manufacturing industry than Nelson Jacboson, whose Grand Haven-based JSJ Corp. is entering its 101st year in business and features a portfolio of companies with an international presence. Jacobson said the pandemic gave rise to a host of complexities in the supply chain as well as worker retention. Those challenges are likely to continue into next year, along with uncertainty about how the business community approaches mandatory COVID-19 vaccines.

Market research and consulting firm IHS Markit recently locked in its latest forecast for the North American automotive industry. Barring any major pandemic-related setbacks, most data indicate a scrappy recovery on the back end of 2020 that will continue into 2021. IHS Director of Automotive Analysis Mike Wall, who brings more than two decades’ worth of auto sector expertise, discussed the relatively surprising projections that he didn’t foresee at the start of the pandemic.

Other than a brief period in the spring when these businesses were shut down completely, many West Michigan automotive dealerships have managed to move vehicles at an impressive clip throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With 30 stores and 77 franchises throughout three different states, Kalamazoo-based Zeigler Auto Group is on the front lines of automotive retail. The company also operates Zeigler Motorsports, which belongs to another segment that is booming during the pandemic. MiBiz caught up with Zeigler Auto Group President Aaron Zeigler to see if he expects this rally to continue into 2021.

Other than professional and high-level college sports, most athletic competition was sidelined on and off throughout the year, yet another industry casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has made life tough for the West Michigan Sports Commission, which focuses on marketing West Michigan as a sports tourism destination. Since March, the commission saw 71 sports events canceled because of COVID-19, equating to 32,242 lost hotel room nights. WMSC President Mike Guswiler reflects on what this does for his organization and when we might see sports return in full force to West Michigan.

Consumers relied on grocery stores and supermarkets like never before during the pandemic. As the state transitioned through various stages of shutdowns, these businesses had to keep their shelves stocked amid challenges like panic buying and stockpiling. Tony Sarsam took over as CEO at SpartanNash Co. in September as the industry was six months into the new dynamic. The former CEO of Texas-based Borden Dairy Co. shares his views on the challenges that await his company with 155 corporate-owned retail stores and a distribution business that delivers to 2,100 independent locations.

In addition to farming his own 1,800 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in Ionia County, Jeff Sanborn is also active in both the Michigan and National Corn Growers associations. In fact, he has represented Michigan on the NCGA board and was a chairman on the NCGA Ethanol Committee. Sandborn shared insights on how the COVID-19 pandemic, new administration and other issues are poised to affect the agriculture industry in 2021.

ZEELAND — Retail orders helped anchor Herman Miller Inc. amid declining sales, the international furniture manufacturer reported Wednesday in its second quarter fiscal 2021 earnings.

MUSKEGON — Auto dealership Betten Baker Chevrolet-Cadillac-GMC is now one of the few GM dealerships in the country to provide the automaker’s full line of brands after a recent acquisition.

KALAMAZOO — Discover Kalamazoo has announced its new president and CEO on the heels of a transitional period for the organization.

GRAND RAPIDS — Worldwide wood products supplier UFP Industries Inc. plans to expand its industrial packaging capabilities through the upcoming acquisition of Florida-based pallet manufacturer PalletOne Inc.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board has approved provisional licenses for 15 platform providers that will work with commercial and tribal casinos statewide offering both online sports betting and internet gaming services.

COMSTOCK PARK — The West Michigan Whitecaps have moved one spot closer to the Detroit Tigers within a shifting hierarchy of Minor League Baseball.

KALAMAZOO — After originally planning to kick off the 2020-21 season on Jan. 15, the Kalamazoo Wings today announced that it will suspend operations and forgo the entire year of hockey.

As details on a recent cybersecurity attack against Grand Rapids-based office furniture giant Steelcase Inc. begin to surface, local manufacturers of all industries and sizes may want to take notice.

In a typical year, the Grand Rapids Griffins would be more than a month into its season on the ice. 

COMSTOCK PARK — While cautiously optimistic about the 2021 season, West Michigan Whitecaps CEO Joe Chamberlin and his front office must still contend with the giant deficit left when Minor League Baseball shut down the entire 2020 season because of COVID-19.

If patronage of local Christmas tree lots and farms is any indication, then Michigan residents are really in the holiday spirit this year.

DUTTON — Opening a business in arguably the hardest hit industry of the COVID-19 pandemic era doesn’t seem like a promising concept on paper, but Justin Buiter and his team at Railtown Brewing Co. are leveraging special circumstances to do exactly that.

Wednesday, 02 December 2020 16:23

Total Fire Protection expands services

GRAND RAPIDS — Total Fire Protection Inc., a family-owned business that has specialized primarily in fire sprinkler and extinguisher services, has launched a new division to expand its capabilities.

LANSING — A bipartisan panel of state lawmakers has agreed to fast-track a series of administrative rules that could launch the state’s internet sports gambling and casino gaming before the end of the month.

GRAND RAPIDS — Founders Brewing Co. has temporarily laid off 89 employees as the bar, restaurant, entertainment and hospitality industries cope with recent health guidelines handed down by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

ALBION — Caster Concepts Inc., which designs and builds industrial casters and wheels for a variety of industries, has completed the acquisition of a Southern California company that expands it into the aerospace and defense contracting industries.

BATTLE CREEK — When Ken Sunden gets the itch to solve a problem, it’s nearly impossible for him to avoid scratching it. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the opening of Daimond Dixon’s athlete training and recovery facility, he and his wife Regina decided they would still find a way to train athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

Heading into 2021, Brewery Vivant has worked with its distributor to get three different six-pack placements into Meijer Inc. stores on a statewide basis. 

Talent gaps and workforce shortages are two issues that have dogged the manufacturing industry for years, pushing Michigan companies and their supporting organizations to develop a more robust talent pipeline in Michigan.

Plummeting freight rates paired with the economic slowdown that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on trucking company DIS Transportation LLC, leading the Kentwood-based business to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

GRAND RAPIDS — Jeff Courter’s tech company is taking aim at a larger and more captive audience than it ever has in its young history.

GRAND RAPIDS — An active stretch of acquisitions for Grand Rapids-based wood products manufacturer UFP Industries Inc. continued this week as the company announced it has acquired three new businesses.

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