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Economic Development

Online sports betting and casino gaming will go live statewide beginning on Friday at noon.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has unveiled a $5.6 billion pandemic recovery spending plan that primarily uses federal funding to help control the spread of COVID-19, which state officials and economists say is crucial to ensure broader economic recovery.

GRAND RAPIDS — Feyen Zylstra LLC, a Grand Rapids-based electrical services and industrial technology firm, has expanded its footprint into North Carolina following a recent acquisition.

KALAMAZOO — A new funding tool recently signed into law is intended to help finance an event center in downtown Kalamazoo, but it’s unclear if there is a desire or solid plans to move forward with the venue.

The next 10 months will culminate in a landmark year for Michigan politically as new legislative district boundaries are drawn by an independent commission tasked with quashing partisan gerrymandering.

After ping-ponging around the globe in various professional roles, Jane Ghosh finally ended up back in Kalamazoo, where her new job involves promoting the city she calls home. In December, Ghosh was named the new president and CEO of Discover Kalamazoo, which promotes tourism to Kalamazoo County. With an economics degree from Harvard University, Ghosh has marketing experience with titans like Johnson & Johnson and Kellogg Company. She will apply that experience to help raise the profile of Kalamazoo in a time when dining, entertainment and many other forms of hospitality have slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DOWAGIAC — The CEO since the founding of Mno-Bmadsen, the non-gaming economic development and investment arm of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, is resigning his post to take a role at a similar tribal organization in Washington.

Michigan’s economy that has already rebounded well from the depths of the spring dive should take another year or more before returning to “solid ground.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hopes that restaurants across Michigan can reopen for indoor dining on Feb. 1 “with strong safety measures in place” and “if numbers continue to head in the right direction.”

TALLMADGE TOWNSHIP — A trio of Ottawa County-based businesses that serve as a one-stop-shop in the fasteners industry has changed hands.

GRAND RAPIDS — Events are planned to slowly return to Grand Rapids’ downtown venues with ramped up safety guidelines, starting with crowdless Grand Rapids Griffins games and Grand Rapids Symphony performances.

GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids Drive announced on Friday that it plans to opt out of the current 2020-21 NBA G-League season while promising major changes on the horizon for next year.

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed legislation reinstating a tax credit for historic preservation projects that was eliminated in 2011 as part of former Gov. Rick Snyder’s state tax reform strategy.

After a three-month hiatus from operating flights through Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport, American Airlines plans to resume a daily flight starting Jan. 5.

A federal bill has been signed into law that allows states battling high water levels and erosion to create revolving loan funds for coastal mitigation projects. 

Sports bettors and online casino gamers found themselves sitting on the sidelines in Michigan for all of 2020, even when there was a glimmer of hope that the state would launch online gaming before the year was out.

Here is the MiBiz growth report for January 3, 2021.

LUDINGTON — The historic S.S. Badger car ferry that crosses Lake Michigan between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wis. is under new ownership. 

MiBiz readers showed a strong interest in our COVID-19 coverage this year, as well as news about free tuition, business layoffs, bankruptcies, restaurants, beer and marijuana. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today signed legislation that provides $106 million in COVID-19 relief that includes grants for small businesses and entertainment venues that have been closed or had operations limited by state orders.

The state plans to hold another liquor buyback for bars and restaurants. A similar effort earlier this year by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) bought back $3.4 million in spirits from 673 liquor license holders, for an average of a little more than $5,000 per each bar and restaurant that was closed or had limited operations during the COVID-019 pandemic.

State and federal lawmakers have each reached consensus on COVID-19 relief that will support small businesses like restaurants and venues still confronting pandemic-related restrictions.

The experience of living through the COVID-19 pandemic and helping manage a small business during a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime crisis has me leaning heavily on lessons I learned decades ago chasing winter steelhead with my dad on the Manistee River. 

The U.S. economy that got hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic this spring heads toward 2021 on the rebound, although a surge in cases during the fall and renewal of restrictions in many states may limit economic growth nationally early in the new year.

Born and raised in Muskegon, Greg Maki was the first to open recreational cannabis dispensaries in Muskegon, Ottawa and Montcalm counties. While many businesses ground to a halt during 2020, the cannabis industry continued to grow in West Michigan. Park Place Provisionary in Muskegon, Exit 9 in Nunica, and Edmore Provisionary are open under Agri-Med LLC, and Maki is working on opening more locations in the region.

Michigan’s economy could stand to benefit in the years ahead as manufacturers move to reshore work to the U.S. after dealing with severe disruptions in their foreign supply chains when the coronavirus first surfaced in China.

Mark Burton took over the Michigan Economic Development Corp. just days before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued her first state of emergency to curb the spread of COVID-19. Since then, the agency’s strategic plan has shifted dramatically. It has overseen 20 programs that delivered more than $170 million in relief funds, including a $10 million small business grant program last week in which demand far exceeded program limits. Burton has worked with Whitmer for years, including as her chief strategist prior to joining the MEDC and as her chief of staff while she served in the Senate.

Ben Wrigley — along with fellow attorney Robert Hendricks — created a specialized law practice in 2013 under the CannaLex division of their firm, Wrigley Hoffman PC. As more adult-use dispensaries open across the state, Wrigley has emerged as a local voice in the cannabis industry to help make sense of frequently changing state and local restrictions for business owners. He has represented numerous clients seeking to start cannabis businesses in Michigan’s medical and adult-use markets, which he says are poised to expand to more municipalities. 

The pandemic pushed local retailers that traditionally rely on foot traffic to beef up their online presence and offer curbside and delivery options — mostly out of necessity to accommodate shopping from home and to compete with online retail giants.

Other than professional and high-level college sports, most athletic competition was sidelined on and off throughout the year, yet another industry casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has made life tough for the West Michigan Sports Commission, which focuses on marketing West Michigan as a sports tourism destination. Since March, the commission saw 71 sports events canceled because of COVID-19, equating to 32,242 lost hotel room nights. WMSC President Mike Guswiler reflects on what this does for his organization and when we might see sports return in full force to West Michigan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry within the Department of Natural Resources in May 2019, hoping to elevate the state’s status as a recreation destination. It’s tough competition with states like Utah, Colorado, Vermont and Maine, but Michigan has its own set of recreational assets, anchored by the Great Lakes and vast amounts of public land for backcountry activities. Brad Garmon was tapped to lead the office, and he says elevating the industry here means making connections with more traditional sectors like manufacturing. Aligning those sectors, which has accelerated during the pandemic, has been among Garmon’s priorities since taking the job.

The Whitmer administration has announced revised statewide COVID-19 orders that continue banning indoor dining until Jan. 15 but begin to reopen various entertainment facilities based on positive public health trends.

Business groups are urging Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to sign legislation that would forgive fines, late fees and interest on unpaid summer 2020 property tax bills.

GRAND RAPIDS — Former Lakeshore Advantage CEO Randy Thelen is returning to West Michigan to lead regional economic development firm The Right Place Inc.

GRAND RAPIDS — Perrigo Co. plc is seeking a 12-year incentive agreement estimated at $4.1 million in total property tax savings for its plans to relocate its North American headquarters to downtown.

The economic development organization for the Muskegon area has taken on a new name.

MUSKEGON — Auto dealership Betten Baker Chevrolet-Cadillac-GMC is now one of the few GM dealerships in the country to provide the automaker’s full line of brands after a recent acquisition.

State leaders expressed cautious optimism on Tuesday as key metrics involving COVID-19 case trends, test positivity rates and hospitalizations are improving under recent emergency restrictions.

Additional mass closings and staff layoffs in the hospitality industry are expected without additional federal aid for businesses, according to recent surveys by national hotel and restaurant trade groups.

KALAMAZOO — Discover Kalamazoo has announced its new president and CEO on the heels of a transitional period for the organization.

LAWTON — Troy-based Secure Investors Group Inc. plans to acquire South Michigan Insurance Agency Inc. and Donald E. Thornton Insurance Agency in Lawton.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board has approved provisional licenses for 15 platform providers that will work with commercial and tribal casinos statewide offering both online sports betting and internet gaming services.

GRAND RAPIDS — Public relations and investor relations firm Lambert & Co. formed a joint venture with 9th Wonder, a Houston, Texas-based marketing and brand strategy firm.

In a typical year, the Grand Rapids Griffins would be more than a month into its season on the ice. 

COMSTOCK PARK — While cautiously optimistic about the 2021 season, West Michigan Whitecaps CEO Joe Chamberlin and his front office must still contend with the giant deficit left when Minor League Baseball shut down the entire 2020 season because of COVID-19.

Grand Rapids resident Kelsey Perdue was one of 16 people appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last month to the state’s newly created Black Leadership Advisory Council. The group will advise the administration on policy recommendations and also “identify state laws, or gaps in state law, that create or perpetuate inequities.” Perdue brings to the council experience in grassroots organizing for equitable policies in West Michigan.

Here's the MiBiz Growth Report for December 6, 2020.

GRAND RAPIDS — Insurance and employee benefits agency Lighthouse Group has been acquired by Alera Group, a Deerfield, Ill.-based independent insurance firm that has more than 90 locations across the U.S.