West Michigan-based manufacturing executives think 2019 marks a good time to take a pause from the recent breakneck pace of capital investments and acquisitions to focus on operations. That’s the general consensus from local manufacturing leaders across a range of industries who participated in a forward-looking roundtable discussion with MiBiz earlier this month. 

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West Michigan manufacturers are dealing with a host of issues, ranging from trade and tariffs to talent and technology. As they wade through those challenges, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West is there to help, according to Regional Director Justine Burdette. As MMTC seeks to “maintain that closeness and relationships with our manufacturers,” the organization is finding new ways to adapt and address their needs, she said. 

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Cascade Die Casting Group Inc. is a manufacturer heavily concentrated in the automotive industry. Although the company recently lost business related to the closure of several General Motors plants, the industry shift from low price-point cars to higher-margin trucks and SUVs has President Patrick Greene cautiously optimistic about continued growth in 2019.

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This year, unemployment rates have dropped to an 18-year low and local manufacturers are scrambling to find new and innovative ways to grow without gaps. As founder of the advisory firm 100X LLC and chair of Vistage Executive Peer Group, an executive coaching organization, former manufacturing exec Steve Johandes helps dozens of local organizations and companies position themselves for “what’s next” in the market. 

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Women are critical to addressing the serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled production positions, according to Kelly Springer, CEO of Metal Flow Corp., a Holland-based automotive supplier. Yet, relatively few women choose manufacturing careers. As chair of Inforum’s ManufacturingNext steering committee, Springer is helping to strengthen the talent pipeline of women who thrive in manufacturing professions. 

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After acquiring Nuvar Inc. in May from its long-time owner, Amy Sparks is executing on growth plans for the Holland-based manufacturer and developer of finished goods primarily for the contract furniture industry. While she’s mindful of some softening in the broader market, Sparks remains “cautiously optimistic” for the economy in 2019. 

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The 2019 forecast for the automotive industry remains steady, although sales are expected to experience “a little bit of a step down” to 16.8 million units compared to an expected 17.1 million units this year, according to Mike Wall, director of automotive analysis at IHS Markit. The big cloud over the industry currently hinges on tariffs and trade deals, specifically the United States Mexico Canada Agreement. Wall expects the USMCA to get enacted in some form, even though he does expect to see “some adjustments on the margins.”

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Grand Rapids Community College will receive $100,000 from heavy metal band Metallica to support new programming, the school announced today.

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GRAND HAVEN — By investing in three new injection molding machines in 2018, Anderson Technologies Inc. is betting that Industry 4.0 technologies will counter the effects of a shrinking workforce locally and nationally. 

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MANISTEE — A Northern Michigan-based manufacturer of electronics and electrical assemblies has been acquired by a portfolio company of New Water Capital Partners LP of Boca Raton, Fla. 

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