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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.

PGI of Saugatuck expands operations

Written by | Friday, 10 February 2012 08:49 |

After 25 years in business, PGI of Saugatuck CEO Pete Palazzolo says his business is finally at the point where he can afford to keep it in the 48,000-square-foot facility in Fennville that it calls home.

MMA sets sights on personal property tax

Written by | Thursday, 09 February 2012 11:01 |

Eliminating Michigan’s personal property tax has long been a high priority for business advocates in Lansing. This year, they may finally accomplish their goal. Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders in the state House and Senate, on the heels of last year’s elimination of the Michigan Business Tax and creation of a 6 percent corporate income tax, have made repeal of the personal property tax a top priority in 2012.

Coastal Container acquires Best Packaging

Written by | Tuesday, 31 January 2012 10:41 |

Good things may come in small packages, but Coastal Container’s growing business is done in packages of many different sizes. With the recent of acquisition of Best Packaging in Coopersville, the company’s growth has been steady since it was created four years ago. President and CEO of Coastal Container Brent Peterson said the acquisition will make Coastal a much stronger company and add to its stability and profitability as well as its cash flow.

The only conscious thoughts most people have about packaging come in flurries when they have a devil of a time opening one. But packaging is a meticulously researched, highly specialized field thanks to the world’s largest and best-known packaging school at Michigan State University, which invented packaging as an academic discipline in 1952.

State needs non-manufacturing jobs

Written by | Thursday, 26 January 2012 11:16 |

The resurgence of the manufacturing sector, led by a strong recovery in the domestic auto industry, is surely welcome for Michigan after the loss of thousands of jobs over the years.

Manufacturers ride the rebound

Written by | Thursday, 26 January 2012 10:13 |

WEST MICHIGAN — The manufacturing sector grew in 2011 and there is no reason to believe that 2012 will be any different. That’s according to Rich Antonini, managing partner of Plante Moran who concentrates his practice on that sector.

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