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Office furniture expected to dip in 2012

Written by | Monday, 19 March 2012 10:08 |

After posting strong growth for 2011, the office furniture industry will experience a small decline this year and then pick up again in 2013, according to a new forecast.

Trucks: The other vehicle market

Written by | Monday, 19 March 2012 09:42 |

The automotive industry looms large in West Michigan, but it is not the only vehicular game in town

While electric vehicles and hybrids get the headlines, Eaton Corp. is betting that the internal combustion engine still has a long life ahead of it. Automakers are by no means running away from traditional engines. In fact, industry watchers say driving more efficiencies out of the internal combustion engine is still the cheapest option for companies to meet the tightening fuel economy standards.

For the first time in more than five decades in business, Amway Corp. will operate a food processing plant at its main manufacturing campus in West Michigan. Amway’s No. 1 product line, Nutrilite, accounted for more than 40 percent of its $10.9 billion in sales for 2011. As part of a plan to restructure its supply chain, Amway recently made the decision to shut down by 2013 its Lakeview, Calif. plant, which produces Nutrilite protein powder supplements. That production has been relocated to Michigan.

Alticor surpasses $10B in sales

Written by | Wednesday, 14 March 2012 16:19 |

Growth in developing markets has fueled business for direct-seller Amway, whose parent company Alticor Inc. in February announced global sales had exceeded $10.9 billion in 2011.

Once upon a time, West Michigan executives routinely started and ended business trips with long drives to and from Detroit or Chicago. It’s no longer routine for several reasons.

It used to be only C-students and underachievers were attracted to America’s family farms. Besides working in a factory, they didn’t have many other options. But Kansas State University Professor and Agricultural Economist Kevin C. Dhuyvetter told MiBiz that is changing because of the improving U.S. farm economy.

Executives at manufacturing companies across state are grappling with a perplexing dilemma: Despite unemployment remaining at a traditionally high level, manufacturing is being crippled by a lack of skilled workers. This problem is not new. Manpower Inc. reported in its “2009 Talent Shortage Survey” that manufacturing-related occupations — skilled trades, technicians, engineers, et al — rank among the top five positions that employers were having the most trouble filling.

Small- and medium-sized West Michigan manufacturers should follow the example set by their counterparts in Germany if they would like to expand to China, according to Andy Fein of Hans-Andreas Fein & Associates. He spoke at The Right Place Inc./Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West “Sunrise Series” event Feb. 7 held at the GVSU Eberhard Center.

American Axle & Manufacturing Inc. (NYSE: AAM) plans to invest $102 million into its Three Rivers campus, about 25 miles south of Kalamazoo, as part of a broader corporate expansion.

The move demonstrates the Tier 1 auto industry supplier’s growing confidence in the sustainability of the national economic recovery and the recovery of the auto industry, which is positioned to sell about 14 million units in 2012.

Production wage spread narrows in Michigan

Written by | Monday, 20 February 2012 11:00 |

One of the selling points for companies in West Michigan for decades has been that labor is cheaper here than on the east side of the state. But it seems local manufacturers are slowly losing that price advantage. Employee wages in the region are still lower than what is being paid by manufacturers in the Detroit area, but local wages are climbing much closer to what is being paid on the east side.

Employment in the automotive industry is on its way back up, after a 10-year slide between 1999 and 2009. Analysis from the Center for Automotive Research projects the addition of 167,000 jobs to U.S. automotive manufacturing between 2011 and 2015. CAR sees 15 percent of these jobs being added by the Detroit Three, 80 percent occurring at supplier companies, and the remainder from the foreign-owned automakers at their U.S. facilities.

Auto industry gears up for promising future

Written by | Monday, 13 February 2012 13:54 |

The reports that the automotive industry is back are not exaggerated, and it showed at the 2012 North American International Auto Show. North American auto sales were up 10.3 percent in 2011 to nearly 12.8 million units, and the Detroit automakers, typically the ones West Michigan suppliers have had the deepest supplier relationships with, had a combined market share of 47.1 percent.

Kellers share biz lessons

Written by | Monday, 13 February 2012 09:25 |

The best lesson an entrepreneur can teach his children is empowerment, Fred Keller, founder and CEO of Cascade Engineering Inc., told a few dozen members of aimWest at the technology networking group’s January meeting.

Three of the region’s largest public companies reported strong 2011 financial results in late January, while also providing some guidance for 2012. Kalamazoo-based Stryker Corp. (NYSE: SYK) reported net sales increased 13.5 percent to $8.3 billion in 2012 and net earnings increased 5.7 percent to $1.3 billion. The maker of medical devices said acquisitions helped propel top-line growth over the previous year, though a $76 million charge for restructuring had an impact on earnings.

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