Economic Development

As the busy summer travel season kicks off with the Memorial Day weekend, the head of the state’s travel bureau expects another record year for Michigan’s tourism industry.

Everybody knows the U.S. economic expansion that’s approaching a decade in duration will eventually come to an end. When that dip will actually occur remains the unknown, as assorted economic outlooks continually predict slower growth ahead, but stop short of forecasting an outright recession.

Vulnerability Discovery & Analysis Labs LLC, a Grand Rapids-based cybersecurity firm, is opening a new headquarters at 5234 Plainfield Ave. NE.

Here is the growth report for May 12, 2019.

Michigan’s medical marijuana market has experienced a flurry of activity in the past two weeks involving court rulings, state guidelines and legislation, and culminating in a showdown within the marijuana business community. The contention hinges on competition between state-licensed and unlicensed businesses and growers.

The economy continued “chugging along” in West Michigan during the early spring, even as economist Brian Long’s monthly survey of industrial purchasing managers again found signs of slower growth.

Private prison operator Geo Group Inc. plans to reopen its closed North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary. CEO Jeff Mason, who has led the organization since July 2017, is optimistic about the state of Michigan’s economy in 2019, and emphasized the importance of improving the state’s infrastructure.

Here is the growth report for April 14, 2019.

Michigan House Republicans have advanced a pair of bills blocking local units of government from adopting “sanctuary” policies for undocumented immigrants, although critics say the bills could interfere with local law enforcement.

MUSKEGON — Higher Great Lakes water levels this spring should benefit the shipping industry and even recreational boat harbors, but also create shoreline erosion and other problems for docks and piers.

MUSKEGON — Federal guidance on a new incentive program designed to encourage investment in economically-distressed communities comes at an opportune time for Muskegon. Amid an ongoing wave of redevelopment in the city, property investors looking to shield some gains from taxes now have new ways to redeploy their capital and seek returns via Opportunity Zones.

Problems with Michigan’s infrastructure go beyond deteriorating roads and bridges. Michigan also ranks poorly — 42nd among the 50 states — in terms of digital connectivity, according to an annual report on entrepreneurship in the state.

West Michigan businesses are adapting their strategies to help address the unexpected rise of PFAS contamination as an issue, albeit mostly in measured steps as the quickly changing scenario continues to play out. But regardless of how they are reacting to doing business in the era of intense public scrutiny around PFAS, companies involved in everything from analytical testing to litigation expect the issue to remain front and center for the foreseeable future.

Add the contaminant PFAS to the checklist of issues prospective buyers need to consider when acquiring a business. Buyers need to make PFAS part of due diligence in an acquisition, particularly in industries that have a history of products involving the family of chemicals, said attorney Dan Parmeter, a partner at the Grand Rapids office of Mika Meyers PLC.

A new state law preventing environmental regulations from being stricter than the federal government’s could see a test under the Trump administration’s proposal to scale back national water standards. The proposal to redefine the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule would scale back regulations adopted by the Obama administration that set which waters receive protection under the Clean Water Act.

Here is the growth report for April 14, 2019.

As PFAS emerged unexpectedly as the latest contamination scare, West Michigan-based companies are stepping up with new services aimed at addressing the problem and helping residents, businesses and regulators find answers.

GRAND RAPIDS — Companies looking to break into the lucrative medical marijuana industry want to ensure their place in line for the city’s lottery process that will determine the order in which their proposals are considered. In an effort to boost their chances of being selected in the lottery, some applicants have submitted multiple proposals — sometimes even for adjacent properties — in concentrated areas where city zoning allows medical marijuana-related businesses.

MUSKEGON — A new travel-friendly schedule at Muskegon County Airport continues to attract new business and leisure travelers, leading to higher overall passenger numbers. Recent spring break travel filled up many flights, and airport officials are even more optimistic as the region gears up for summer travel season.

The latest quarterly economic survey from Business Leaders for Michigan shows continued optimism about the state economy, although few executives expect higher growth through 2019 and into next year.

ADA - Ada Fresh Market by Forest Hills Foods will open on April 14, SpartanNash Co. announced Wednesday.

Members of one organization advocating for small businesses in Lansing left no doubt in their opposition to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposal to raise the state gas tax 45 cents per gallon to generate $2.5 billion for fixing roads.

West Michigan’s economy plodded along to start 2019, growing slowly as it has been for a decade, according to economist Brian Long’s monthly survey of industrial purchasing managers. Key indexes for new orders and purchases in Long’s report for March eased from February and the index for production “retreated” but remained positive.

The Michigan Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments this summer on whether the state Legislature could amend laws on paid sick leave and minimum wage increases during the lame-duck session that were passed earlier in the legislative session.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has unveiled a new program it says will help communities attract businesses to available properties across the state.

Michigan’s handling of past chemical contamination incidents offers perspective on what it’s going to take to clean up the state’s PFAS problems. Expect it to take decades, billions of dollars and some awkward dances of cooperation. Reporting on PFAS to date has focused mostly on environmental concerns and pointing blame at the companies and organizations that have discharged the emerging contaminant into water supplies. MiBiz's three-part series will go beyond the heated rhetoric to offer a dose of reality about how to handle the complex challenges stemming from the equally complex chemical.

The city of Portage provides municipal water to 95 percent of its 48,500 residents. As such, City Manager Larry Shaffer said clean water is a fundamental aspect of keeping residents safe. Most of the up to 5 million gallons of water produced daily comes from groundwater.

A growing group of Michigan residents are working but not bringing home a paycheck big enough to cover their basic expenses, according to a new study by the Michigan Association of United Ways. The ALICE research project, which released new data last week, found that 14 percent of Michigan’s population lives below the federal poverty level. Another 29 percent are “asset-limited, income-constrained, employed” (ALICE), a measure of the so-called working poor who earn more than the federal poverty level but less than the cost of living.

When Nick Hrnyak looks out from his corporate office on Cascade Road, he can survey a property that is contaminated from decades of electroplating wastes, including nickel, chromium, copper, boron and now PFAS, the persistent and pervasive family of chemicals that is alarming the nation. In his immediate sight are an attractive office and golf course complex that includes a gymnastics center and church. Just down the road on the same contaminated site are neighborhoods with some of the most expensive homes in Kent County, three small lakes and Schoolhouse Creek, a tributary to the Thornapple River.

After stories began to emerge in late 2017 that tannery wastes had contaminated the Rogue River, customers at nearby Rockford Brewing Co. started expressing concern about the safety of drinking the beer. Even though Rockford Brewing was connected to municipal water, which has tested non-detect for the PFAS family contaminants over four rounds of testing, the brewery still faced a possible PR crisis, said co-owner Seth Rivard.

Here is the MiBiz Growth Report for March 31, 2019.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and three other Michigan business groups backed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposal to increase the number of state residents with a college degree and create a scholarship fund to help students go to school after high school.

State laws raising the minimum wage and setting new requirements on employers for paid sick leave go into effect toward at the end of this week, unless Michigan’s attorney general or highest court say otherwise. Laws that legislators first enacted following petition drives and subsequently amended in the lame-duck session at the end of 2018 are the subject of requests to both state Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Michigan Supreme Court. At issue is whether the legislature has the ability under the state Constitution to amend laws in the same legislative session in which they were originated through citizen petition.

E.W. Scripps Co. plans to acquire eight television stations, including Grand Rapids-based WXMI, in the most recent arrangement to come from the mega-merger of a pair the nation’s largest media giants.

Ninety applicants must now await a lottery drawing to see when the city of Grand Rapids will consider their plans for medical marijuana-based businesses.

MUSKEGON — The city of Muskegon has bolstered its economic development office amid a wave of major redevelopment projects, and while a local support organization continues to define its future and transition to private-sector support. The city reorganized and expanded the office from a half-time economic development position shared through a contract with Muskegon County, to two new full-time, in-house staffers.

Michigan’s handling of past chemical contamination incidents offers perspective on what it’s going to take to clean up the state’s PFAS problems. Expect it to take decades, billions of dollars and some awkward dances of cooperation. Reporting on PFAS to date has focused mostly on environmental concerns and pointing blame at the companies and organizations that have discharged the emerging contaminant into water supplies. MiBiz's three-part series will go beyond the heated rhetoric to offer a dose of reality about how to handle the complex challenges stemming from the equally complex chemical.

The path to cleaning up man-made chemical contamination is expensive, complex and can take generations. That’s according to Richard Rediske, senior program manager and professor of environmental chemistry at Grand Valley State University’s Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute. Rediske, an expert on PFAS, has worked with the Concerned Citizens for Responsible Remediation, the group that for years has been chronicling contamination at the former Wolverine World Wide Inc. tannery site in Rockford.

As the scope of PFAS contamination continues to grow nationwide, lawmakers in other states increasingly are taking note of how the situation is being handled in Michigan. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, recruited about 30 members of Congress “from virtually every part of the county” to join a bipartisan “PFAS taskforce” he formed with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania.

The practice of environmental law in the United States has evolved to better define who is liable for contamination cleanups. That’s according to veteran environmental lawyer Alan Schwartz, a member of Grand Rapids-based Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey PLC.

Michigan needs to buckle up for a long, long ride on the PFAS rollercoaster. If history is any guide, coming up with workable solutions to PFAS contamination around the state is going to take decades of painstaking work, billions of dollars and many awkward dances of cooperation between companies, government agencies and citizens groups.

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