Economic Development

GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids Planning Commission postponed talks about allowing recreational marijuana businesses in the city to hold more discussion on separation requirements and other aspects of the ordinance.

GRAND RAPIDS — Aiming to create greater ethnic and racial diversity in business ownership across the region, The Right Place Inc. teamed with Bank of America and the Consumers Energy Foundation to form a capital investment fund.

Michigan officials are still months away from finalizing rules on internet gaming and sports betting, but some Michigan-based Native American tribes are taking early steps to participate in the newly legalized industry. 

A lack of state funding for the popular Pure Michigan campaign that promotes the state as a travel destination complicates plans for tourism promoters now preparing for the 2020 summer season.

Craft brewing industry executives worry that a lack of Pure Michigan advertisements touting the state as a brewery tourism destination could have a chilling effect on attracting out-of-state visitors to their taprooms. 

In his previous role as chairman of Mno-Bmadsen, the non-gaming economic development and investment arm of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Eugene Magnuson was able to help out the tribe of which he and his mother are citizens. In his new position as CEO of Little River Holdings in Manistee, Magnuson gets to leverage that experience in helping advance the economic security of his father’s tribe, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. He spoke with MiBiz about his long-term vision for Little River Holdings and the group’s growth strategy. 

This is the growth report for January 18, 2020.

GRAND RAPIDS — Allegiant Travel Co., a low-cost Las Vegas-based airline, plans to start direct service from Gerald R. Ford International Airport to Los Angeles, Boston and Austin, Texas.

GRAND RAPIDS — Lambert & Co. closed on its second acquisition in two months with a deal for New York-based Casteel Schoenborn Investor Relations & Corporate Communications. 

KALAMAZOO — Zeigler Automotive Group expects to add $350 million in annual sales with the planned acquisition of three luxury dealerships in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. 

Talent, housing and infrastructure topped the 2020 priority list for members of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

GRAND RAPIDS — Family-owned aftermarket automotive parts distributor and retailer Auto-Wares Group of Companies is expanding its Michigan operations with a new acquisition.

The latest attempt to expand Michigan’s successful bottle deposit law comes as communities across the state struggle to maintain recycling programs amid overseas economic pressures.

Locally owned and operated businesses are a unique asset to West Michigan’s economy, but that dynamic is changing as more owners opt to sell to private equity firms that have increasingly targeted the region for deals. 

This is the MiBiz growth report for January 6, 2020.

Readers in 2019 turned to for myriad exclusive reporting and news scoops. What sets this most-read stories list apart from previous years was the overall diversity in the most popular stories, which ranged from breaking news about M&A, lawsuits, layoffs and expansions to MiBiz exclusive reporting on West Michigan’s real estate, manufacturing, health care and craft beverage industries, among others. 

After unseating the two-term incumbent in the November election, Holland Mayor Nathan Bocks got right to work after being sworn into office. Holland is in the midst of several large projects, including brainstorming the framework that will inform the development of its waterfront, increasing affordable housing in the region, considering an anti-discrimination ordinance and rewriting its zoning. All of these projects will move along in 2020, as Bocks and city officials also keep an eye on the economy.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce continues to seek out ways to address the persistent talent issues that local companies are facing. Rick Baker, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber, said the organization is advocating for ways to attract talent at the local and state levels, including by expanding programming in 2020. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took office in January 2019 after a winning campaign in which she promised to fix the roads. Her proposal toward that goal, a 45-cent increase in state fuel taxes, proved about as popular as a mammoth pothole that rattles your teeth each day during the morning drive to the office. Finding a road solution that the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled state Legislature can agree on remains a priority in Lansing in 2020, said Matt Resch of public relations and public affairs firm Resch Strategies LLC. The new year will also see whether Gov. Whitmer and Republicans can move beyond their fierce battle over the state budget.

Dave Alexander was appointed business development manager for the City of Muskegon in July. Alexander was formerly the executive director of Downtown Muskegon Now, which recently disbanded. His new role includes acting as the Downtown Development Authority’s staff liaison, overseeing the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, and supporting commercial retail development throughout the city.

Despite outlooks for slower economic growth, college graduates can expect a “fairly strong” job market when they go looking for work next year after earning their degrees. In its annual recruiting trends report, Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute surveyed more than 2,800 U.S. employers in all 50 states and across all sectors and projects job opportunities will grow 12 percent across all degrees. 

Shortly after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took office in January 2019, statewide environmental groups issued an “environmental roadmap” for policy action on various conservation issues.

After securing a victory over partisan gerrymandering in the 2018 election, organizers behind the grassroots group Voters Not Politicians have their sights set on several more state government reforms in 2020.

For this 13th installment of Crystal Ball, MiBiz reporters interviewed dozens of West Michigan executives about their outlook for the state and national economy and the indicators they’re watching as they prepare their businesses for the new year. While no single issue seemed to rise to the top this year, here’s a subjective list of their concerns that came up most often, ranked in no particular order. 

The West Michigan economy looks good heading into 2020, and few people we’ve interviewed for this Crystal Ball edition fear that a recession is imminent. While executives should take solace that the region’s economic fundamentals remain sound, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. 

MiBiz Crystal Ball 2020 Table of Contents

Online retail websites now have to collect and pay state sales taxes on consumer purchases in Michigan. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed legislation requiring sales tax collections by online platforms such as Amazon and eBay. The laws fix a loophole that allowed organizations to forgo tax collection on transactions by sellers who use a third party’s platform.

Legislation to expand Michigan’s 43-year-old bottle deposit law and increase recycling amid growing use of single-use plastics was met with opposition by a statewide group representing retailers and grocery stores who said the bills would do little to improve “Michigan’s dismal recycling rate.”

Plainfield and Algoma townships have reached a tentative $69.5 million settlement in the case filed by the state of Michigan against Rockford-based Wolverine World Wide Inc. over PFAS contamination.

Consensus is building in Lansing over studying the potential for toll roads as a future transportation funding source, but whether Michigan will join the nearly three-dozen states in doing so remains unclear.

Employers across West Michigan granted pay raises this year averaging 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent, according to annual survey data.

Here is the growth report for December 7, 2019.

GRAND RAPIDS — As the state Legislature continues budget talks, West Michigan economic development executives remain concerned about a $26 million cut to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. budget.

As someone born and raised in Holland, Trent Ramos noticed a divide among fellow residents.

Here is the growth report for November 23, 2019.

Michigan retailers report they had sluggish sales last month, the result of a slowing economy and other factors such as the six-week strike against General Motors.

KALAMAZOO — Business leaders and philanthropists gave $6.5 million to Western Michigan University for what’s known as the Center for Principled Leadership and Business Strategy.

The number of apprenticeship programs and apprentices grew significantly in Michigan during the last decade while extending into nontraditional areas beyond construction and manufacturing, according to a state report.

popular Grand Rapids brewery learned the hard way that focusing on winning a lawsuit can cost a company in other tangible ways if it loses first in the court of public opinion. 

Here is the growth report for November 9, 2019.

WALKER — Chris Sherrell, a veteran grocery executive who worked with Meijer Inc. to launch the Fresh Thyme Farmers Market concept in 2012, has stepped down from the company.

GRAND RAPIDS — Restaurant operator Meritage Hospitality Group Inc. expanded its holdings in the Atlanta, Ga. market with the acquisition of five Wendy’s stores. 

GRAND RAPIDS — Faced with multiple departures from leadership positions at the city of Grand Rapids, City Manager Mark Washington wants to avoid being “hasty” about hiring replacements.

HOLLAND — Last year, travelers from all 50 states and 47 countries stopped into the Holland Area Visitors Bureau while visiting the city. 

MiBiz Growth Report for Oct. 26, 2019.

MUSKEGON — L.C. Walker Arena will become Mercy Health Arena at the end of the year under a $1.5 million sponsorship deal between the city of Muskegon and the health system.

With former CEO Jim Edmonson back at the helm and a new board of directors, Muskegon Area First has positioned itself for fiscal and programmatic growth to support Muskegon County’s economic development into the next decade.

ZEELAND — The $70,000 grant Lakeshore Advantage Corp. received this summer will go toward examining one potential solution to a problem resulting from the economic vitality of Ottawa and Allegan counties: a lack of suitable available land for industrial development.