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John Wiegand

John Wiegand

Staff writer

[email protected]

Sunday, 04 January 2015 21:00

Hit the slopes

As the temperature dips and the snow flies, it’s time to trade in the mountain bikes for the skis and poles.

After relying on a cushion of international business to weather the economic downturn, one West Michigan manufacturer of anodized aluminum coil has refocused its attention abroad.

Rapid growth in the aerospace industry could pose its share of challenges for West Michigan-based suppliers that are already plagued by capacity constraints.

While talent development and some legislative reforms may prove to be challenges, West Michigan chambers of commerce executives feel confident looking ahead to 2015 as they project increased business investment in their individual communities.

As companies across the country and in West Michigan pay close attention to talent issues, they’ve largely looked to community colleges as the go-to source for skilled workers. However, attracting students to technical training programs and sourcing funding for those programs continue to be issues for those schools. During his tenure, Grand Rapids Community College President Steven Ender has worked to grow the college’s programs and curriculum to meet the needs of employers in West Michigan. He spoke with MiBiz about the role community colleges will play in training workers in the coming year.

Heightened construction and manufacturing activity amid falling commodity prices have Paul Isely optimistic about the overall economy’s performance next year. However, the chair of the economics department at Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business says the ever-present talent shortage, international events and the long recovery have left him wondering when the next downturn will occur. He spoke with MiBiz about those opportunities and some headwinds the state and national economies face in 2015.

There’s little doubt that advances in technology will continue to drive the economy forward. As technology’s role in the market develops, software in particular will be the key to driving product differentiation, global competitiveness and market share, said Carl Erickson, president of Grand Rapids-based Atomic Object. As his software design and development consultancy plans to close this year with sales of $8.5 million, Erickson spoke with MiBiz on his outlook for the technology and software industry in 2015.

West Michigan’s furniture manufacturers seem to have hit their stride. Despite projections cooling off from earlier in 2014, the outlook for the industry looks bright next year – driven by pent-up demand and greater willingness to invest, said Mike Dunlap, principal of Holland-based Michael A. Dunlap & Associates LLC. Dunlap spoke with MiBiz about his views on the industry and its challenges in 2015.

While auto analyst Mike Wall at IHS Automotive Group projects production to hit 17.4 million units in 2015, he sees a series of trends including platform globalization, emerging technology and market uncertainty as driving the industry going forward. He spoke with MiBiz about the opportunities and challenges facing the automotive industry in the year ahead.

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