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Economic Development

Men and women both experienced steep declines in employment at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but on average, the workforce for men is back to pre-pandemic levels in Michigan while women have left the workforce at disproportionate rates. 

President Biden’s recently proposed $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan comes as state officials and local planning experts make gains in plotting investment needs across Michigan.

This is the MiBiz Growth Report for April 11, 2021.

HOLLAND — A West Michigan-based business that has developed a video interviewing platform for employers and potential employees has named its first president.

Eight West Michigan schools will receive free wireless internet hotspots to help bridge connectivity gaps for vulnerable students, officials with AT&T and a national and statewide nonprofit announced Monday.

GRANDVILLE — Kerkstra Precast Inc., a producer of precast and prestressed concrete products in Michigan, has new owners. 

Several Michigan communities are at risk of losing crucial federal funding under proposed changes to their designation as metropolitan areas, which local officials say would negatively affect services and economic development efforts.

HUDSONVILLE — As extended reality technology creeps into the mainstream with big names like Microsoft, Facebook and Apple racing to develop the best experiences for end users, the industry still faces several hurdles to mass adoption.

West Michigan housing experts say a program recently rolled out by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority will help stabilize renters and landlords who have been struggling financially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deborah Prato is less than a month into her new job as CEO of The Rapid, the Grand Rapids metro area’s public transit system. It’s certainly a change of pace from the expansive systems where she previously held executive positions at New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and NJ Transit — some of the largest public transportation systems in the country. In an interview with MiBiz, Prato said while the scale is different, the mission to provide safe and reliable transit options that can also help fuel economic growth remains the same.

Here's the MiBiz Growth Report for March 28, 2021.

FRUITPORT TWP. — The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians has received the necessary federal approvals for its planned Muskegon County casino and is now calling on the Whitmer administration to approve a new gaming compact before starting construction.

A Boston interior design, procurement and project management firm owned by Grand Rapids-based Blackford Capital completed a merger that led to the creation of a new company serving the North American hospitality market.

Goodwill Industries of West Michigan is one of three organizations statewide that was selected to pilot an initiative assisting lower-income workers with affording and accessing child care.

Another busy stretch of sports betting and online casino gaming in Michigan has put the state among some of the top markets in the country.

Here's the MiBiz growth report for March 15, 2021.

Growing up in the rural eastern Upper Peninsula, David Goodreau saw his father and grandfathers support their families by starting and operating small businesses. 

Part of Sault Tribe Economic Development Corp.’s push with Sault Tribe Thrive is to find ways to leverage the advantage of tribal sovereignty within the business community. 

The Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act is a big and bold injection into the U.S. economy that critics — such as all GOP members in the House and Senate who voted against it — have called unnecessarily expensive. However, supporters say the broad support for state and local governments and targeted relief to individuals and families will provide both immediate and long-term benefits. Susan Houseman, vice president and director of research at the Kalamazoo-based W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, said while the latest stimulus reflects Democratic spending priorities, it will also help to ensure a swift post-pandemic economic recovery. Houseman spoke with MiBiz a day after Congress approved the legislation and before it was signed by President Biden.

GRAND RAPIDS — The first phase of the trunk sewer relocation project that will allow for redevelopment along the city’s Market Avenue SW corridor was approved Tuesday by the Grand Rapids City Commission.

GRAND RAPIDS — A medical cannabis dispensary under construction on the city’s northwest side is expected to be finished by mid-June.

State officials are releasing nearly $10 million for more than 100 municipalities across the state that have allowed recreational marijuana dispensaries and microbusinesses.

KALAMAZOO — The Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners voted 7-4 Tuesday to suspend its 2021 funding to Southwest Michigan First as the fallout continues over the organization’s brief hire of former GOP House Speaker Lee Chatfield as CEO.

The Whitmer administration on Tuesday announced a series of loosened COVID-19 restrictions statewide, including allowing restaurants and bars to double their indoor capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent and allowing visitations at long-term care facilities.

GRAND RAPIDS — City officials are seeking proposals from companies to operate its business incubator as part of a broader push to bring more equity to economic development.

This is the MiBiz growth report for March 1, 2021.

Even as a small northern Kent County school with an enrollment shy of 400 students, Kent City High School has viewers from all over the country tune in and watch its sports teams in action.

After a year of reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes increasingly difficult to capture all of the nuanced and at times discordant effects it has had on businesses. While some have thrived or pivoted, many others have struggled to hold on or closed up shop. 

KALAMAZOO — Former GOP House Speaker Lee Chatfield’s weeklong run as CEO of Southwest Michigan First spurred a wave of backlash from the community that has damaged the economic development organization’s reputation, officials say. 

pilot program offers a potential solution to a growing issue for both employers and their workers: access to quality, affordable child care.

Twelve Native American tribes in Michigan received $14.8 million in Indian Housing Block Grant funds for affordable housing projects, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Friday. 

GRAND RAPIDS — When indoor dining was prohibited across the state last year and earlier this year because of COVID-19, Davide Uccello turned to the cannabis industry as a sector that managed to be successful despite lockdown orders. 

A growing number of business executives anticipate higher employment and capital investments over the next six to 12 months as post-pandemic economic outlooks are increasingly optimistic, according to a recent survey by Business Leaders for Michigan.

KALAMAZOO — Former GOP House Speaker Lee Chatfield has resigned as CEO of Southwest Michigan First, a week after his appointment generated controversy among local officials and some in the local business community.

Reports of a new NBA affiliation for the Grand Rapids Drive emerged on Thursday, weeks after the minor league franchise announced that a new partnership might be imminent.

KALAMAZOO — The Kalamazoo Community Foundation has dropped its membership with Southwest Michigan First effective immediately as backlash continues over the economic development organization’s hiring of former GOP House Speaker Lee Chatfield as its CEO.

International food and beverage conglomerate Nestlé SA has reached an agreement to sell its regional spring water brands, purified water business and beverage delivery service in the United States and Canada, a move that will affect its West Michigan operations.

West Michigan experienced a 54.5-percent drop in sports events during the pandemic last year, which led to a 76.1-percent decrease in visitor spending compared to a banner 2019, according to a new report.

State officials announced today that nearly 6,000 Michigan businesses have received grant funding totaling $52.5 million under a COVID-19 relief program signed into law late last year.

Internet gaming and sports betting operators in Michigan reported $42.7 million in gross revenue for the 10-day period after Jan. 22 when several platforms went live.

KALAMAZOO — LGBTQ advocates say Southwest Michigan First should support expanding Michigan’s civil rights law following backlash to the appointment of its new CEO, former House Speaker Lee Chatfield.

KALAMAZOO — The Kalamazoo City Commission unanimously voted to withdraw $10,000 in annual funding for Southwest Michigan First on the same day former GOP House Speaker Lee Chatfield started as the economic development organization’s CEO.

GRAND RAPIDS — MiBiz Inc. and WOOD-TV8 launched a new media partnership that includes sharing breaking news between the two outlets and a weekly roundup of business news during the station’s Monday morning “Daybreak” program.

This is the MiBiz Growth Report for February 15, 2021.

The MiBiz M&A Deals & Dealmakers Awards are back for their 8th installment to highlight best practices and excellence in what can only be described as one of the most atypical deal environments of all time.

The seeds for the joint purchase of the iconic McKay Tower building in downtown Grand Rapids took root years ago when the CEOs at Waséyabek Development Co. LLC and Gun Lake Investments started talking about doing deals together. 

Despite its wide footprint throughout a tri-state area, Zeigler Automotive Group still found itself lacking a few of the big name luxury brands in its portfolio.

Grand Rapids City Commissioner Joe Jones recently stepped down from his full-time job as CEO of the Urban League of West Michigan to launch a consulting firm focused on diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and other social justice advocacy. Jones launched The Hekima Group LLC (named after the Swahili word for wisdom) after a decade at the Urban League where he worked closely on the ongoing inequities for people of color in West Michigan. Jones said he felt a calling to launch the consultancy following the nationwide protests after the killing of George Floyd, the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate harm to communities of color, and his own personal brush with the virus in October. Jones spoke with MiBiz to discuss his new venture and recent City Commission business.