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The past year confirmed to Toni Sperlbaum that workplace wellness is beginning to move in a new direction. Rather than focus on diet, exercise, and financial incentives for increasing participation and progress toward health goals, some employer wellness programs locally now take a broader approach. They encompass mental health, financial well-being and intrinsic motivation to encourage employees to maintain or improve their health, said Sperlbaum, the vice president of wellness at Health Plan Advocate in Grand Rapids. She expects that trend to pick up, albeit slowly, in West Michigan during the next year.

Tina Freese Decker became president and CEO at Spectrum Health on Sept. 1 following the retirement of Rick Breon. She leads West Michigan’s largest health system as the industry adapts to a combination of forces driving change, including greater consumerism and personalizing care to individual patients. As well, the industry has shifted to focus on keeping people healthy rather than treating them when they’re ill or injured, an economic model that rewards quality and pays care providers for outcomes rather than volume. Spectrum Health in 2018 moved into the Southwestern Michigan market with the merger of Lakeland Health in St. Joseph, and this fall formed a new partnership with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

Michigan’s economy will see slower economic and employment growth in 2019 amid the ongoing tight labor market and less U.S. economic growth, economists say.

Michigan business groups say a transition of executive power from a Republican to a Democrat brings policy uncertainty, but they expect a continued focus from Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer on at least two topics: road funding and talent.

Robert Dye views 2019 as a “transitional year” for the U.S. economy as a trio of forces align to moderate growth during the year.

Change is inevitable in government and in business. Just ask The Right Place President and CEO Birgit Klohs, who next year will have worked in economic development during the terms of five different Michigan governors. Still, with all the uncertainty surrounding international trade and politics, now is not the time to wreak havoc on the state’s economic development policies, she said. 

Multiple initiatives and projects in Ottawa County next year will focus on retention and attraction of people to the area, according to County Administrator Al Vanderberg. With the lowest unemployment rate in Michigan (2.5 percent in December), the talent shortage is affecting companies on the lakeshore. Most projects Vanderberg is watching have some tie to the future prosperity of the county.

Years of mobilization around the movement to legalize marijuana in Michigan bore fruit in 2018. Now, Tami VandenBerg, a board member of the organization that helped bring the legalization initiative to voters, predicts the ways the ‘green rush’ will start to reshape the region’s economy. 

Justin Winslow leads the newly formed Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association created through the merger of the Michigan Restaurant Association and Check In Michigan, formerly known as the Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association. Winslow previously led the MRA. The merger created one of the largest trade groups in Lansing that represents businesses statewide that collectively employ more than 595,000 people and generate $40 billion in annual sales. That’s 12.5 percent of the state’s total workforce and nearly 10 percent of Michigan’s GDP, respectively.

Infrastructure and education remain at the top of the policy agenda for 2019 for Business Leaders for Michigan, a statewide roundtable of top business and higher education executives. Led by President and CEO Doug Rothwell, the group this year created a broad coalition of business, labor, philanthropy and civic leaders across the state that in 2019 will look at ways to improve K-12 education. The organization will continue to advocate as well for state investments in infrastructure.

As the top city official in Michigan’s second-largest city, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss is hopeful to continue the momentum heading into 2019. Bliss, who is entering the last year of her first term in office, says encouraging collaboration to tackle complex community issues remains one of her top concerns. 

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, with more than 6,000 members that collectively employ 1 million people, stands as one of the more influential advocacy organizations in Lansing. As Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer prepares to take office in January with a legislature remaining in control of the Republicans, Michigan Chamber CEO Rich Studley says it’s unfair to pre-judge her as a friend or foe of business. Although the new governor and her party historically have been on the other side of business issues from the Michigan Chamber, Studley believes “she has the potential to keep our state moving forward with a different view than the current administration.” 

As a new governor and state Legislature prepare to take office in January, Roger Martin, a partner at the advocacy firm Martin Waymire Inc., is among the people who remain hopeful for a new spirit of bipartisanship in Lansing to address some of the major issues facing Michigan. That includes deteriorating infrastructure across the state that goes beyond the roads. How well Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer and the Republican-controlled legislature work together remains the big unknown, although Martin sees her experience as a legislative leader as a big plus coming into office that predecessors Rick Snyder and Jennifer Granholm lacked.

Since 2011, median home prices have increased by nearly 70 percent while per capita income went up by only 11 percent. Now, Deanna Rolffs, vice president of housing and family services at ICCF, has a waitlist of more than 700 families who are in need of safe, affordable housing. Going into 2019, she thinks community leadership and collaboration could be the key to solving the region’s housing crisis. 

The nonprofit sector must be focused on serving needs in their communities, even if that means taking big steps and thinking outside of the box, according to Carrie Pickett-Erway, the president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. 

Teri Behrens took over as executive director of the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University on Oct. 22. She previously served as the director of strategy and programs at the Johnson Center and worked to integrate an applied research mission with the needs of the changing nonprofit sector. 

Todd Jacobs becomes president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County on Jan. 1. The Muskegon native succeeds Chris McGuigan, who has run the foundation since 1999 and plans to retire. Jacobs moves to the Community Foundation for Muskegon County from the Fremont Area Community Foundation, where he’s worked as vice president and chief philanthropy officer. 

In 2019, City Built Brewing Co. hopes to add a rooftop bar and a street parklet so it can offer outdoor seating during the warmer months at its location in Grand Rapids’ Monroe North neighborhood, according to co-founder Edwin Collazo. “We’re right on the river. We’re going to take advantage of those things that bring people to this area anyways.” 

After completing the acquisition of Legacy Seeds Inc. in August 2018, Tillerman Seeds LLC aims to continue executing on its growth strategy and supporting its portfolio of seed companies. President Jim Sheppard said the goal is to find the right fit when acquiring new companies. 

Strata Business Services LLC is a “specialized small business solutions company” that focuses on investments in the medical marijuana sector in Michigan and other states. As of Dec. 6, adult-use recreational marijuana became legal in Michigan after voters approved Proposal 1 during the midterm election. 

On Jan. 1, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer will take the oath of office to become the 49th governor of Michigan, succeeding Republican Rick Snyder, who was term-limited after eight years in office. Whitmer spoke with MiBiz Editor Joe Boomgaard earlier this week as the contentious lame-duck legislative session came to a close. 

MUSKEGON — A bill to transfer a lakeshore prison property to the state’s land bank is heading to the governor.

GRAND RAPIDS — To the disappointment of executives and several nonprofits present, the Kent County Board of Commissioners voted today to dissolve the Kent County Land Bank Authority.

GRAND RAPIDS — The public body that owns a 14.2-acre “opportunity site” along the Grand River is seeking bids on the property for a possible sale.

Contract furniture manufacturer Herman Miller Inc. today reported strong quarterly sales and earnings gains.

A Northern Michigan Tier 1 supplier of engineered plastic assemblies has been acquired by a private equity firm.

A federal court ordered a West Michigan-based food manufacturer of ready-to-eat foods, including prepared salads, dips, and sauces, to discontinue selling food products until the company complies with federal regulations and other requirements.

The Kent County Board of Commissioners is considering dissolving its agreement with the Kent County Land Bank Authority.

GRAND RAPIDS — A $40 million investment by a Japanese pharmaceutical company provides Tetra Discovery Partners Inc. a strategic partner and capital to test and commercialize a new drug compound that could treat Alzheimer’s disease and a form of autism.

Steelcase Inc. posted strong, double-digit gains in sales and earnings for its most recent quarter.

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