Mark Williams worked at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans for about 20 years as an employee of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. He was laid off in 2013 when the state privatized the facility and turned to contracted workers.
When it comes to economic development efforts in Michigan, practitioners and policymakers say it’s important to legislate the tools to attract and retain companies, not individual projects.
Federal regulators this month rejected a plan by the multi-state electric grid operator to redesign the capacity auction process for parts of Michigan and Illinois, a move that would have affected electric choice customers and providers.
Jackson-based Consumers Energy remains in discussions with the Michigan Public Service Commission over its plan to end an agreement to buy electricity from the Palisades nuclear plant in Van Buren County.
The number of startup companies spun out of Michigan’s top three research universities trended higher as of mid-decade, a possible product of heightened support for entrepreneurship in recent years.
Businesses confronted with the risk of cybersecurity attacks need to avoid falling into the mindset that “it can’t happen to us.”
GRAND RAPIDS — By hiring two economic development professionals who work with the minority community, Start Garden LLC looks to broaden its outreach to more entrepreneurs.
Michigan Republicans are taking swift action at the start of this year’s legislative session to gradually phase out Michigan’s income tax.
GRAND RAPIDS — The conversion of several low-income properties to market-rate apartments by a West Michigan-based property investor has raised concerns in Lansing and Washington, D.C.
Ask manufacturing executives about their biggest challenges and they’ll most likely sum it up in one word: talent. As Michigan’s unemployment rate continues to shrink, manufacturers have struggled to attract and retain people, especially the in-demand skilled workers they need to run their highly automated plants. The Lansing-based Michigan Manufacturers Association has heeded its members’ call by partnering with the SME Education Foundation and the Manufacturing Institute on a new talent solution, said MMA President and CEO Chuck Hadden. SME’s Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education (PRIME) initiative offers customizable curricula, while the Institute’s “Dream It Do It” program provides a framework for manufacturers to communicate more effectively with educators.
As any company involved in the automotive industry knows, the sector clearly follows a cyclical pattern over time. Patrick Greene, the president of Cascade Die Casting Group Inc. in Grand Rapids, believes that after six years of growth in U.S. auto sales, the next downward cycle could occur “in the next couple years.” But Cascade Die Casting and other suppliers, for whom the pain of the 2008-2009 recession remains a very fresh memory, have already started taking action. “We are preparing by making sure our balance sheet is strong and our operations are highly productive and efficient going into the downturn,” Greene said.
Earlier this month, Spartan Motors Inc. struck a $36 million deal with fire truck manufacturer Smeal Fire Apparatus Co. The deal marks a turnaround for the company’s emergency response business, which has struggled financially in the past, according to President and CEO Daryl Adams. For the first time since 2008, Charlotte-based Spartan Motors is on track to be profitable for all four quarters in 2016 and Adams believes the Smeal acquisition will better position the company in the coming year. Moreover, Adams noted that Spartan Motors’ fleet/delivery and specialty chassis divisions remain open to acquisitions if the right opportunities emerge.
Given that JSJ Corp.’s diversified manufacturing operations span North America, Mexico and China, Nelson Jacobson and the company’s board of directors are bracing for a period of acute political uncertainty. However, the chairman, president and CEO of the Grand Haven-based company fully expects to see “very significant growth — 20 percent plus” in 2017. That growth is coming off a record year this year in which JSJ’s sales were “well over” $500 million across its portfolio that includes GHSP Inc., Izzy+ and Dake Corp. Jacobson spoke with MiBiz about his outlook for the new year and how the political volatility influences the company’s plans.
To say Aaron Zeigler is optimistic may be an understatement. Zeigler Auto Group recently topped $1 billion in annual revenue and expects to add another $50 million in revenue before the close of this year. By March, the organization hopes to finish construction on a motorsports dealership and “action park” — complete with a full restaurant, bar and several miles of test tracks — that will serve as a destination for enthusiasts, said Zeigler, the president of the dealership group. He projects growth by acquisition to continue to heat up in 2017. “We could add another three to four dealers next year pretty easily,” he said. Overall, Zeigler bets the economy will likely continue to grow, particularly if the incoming administration fulfills its promises to cut taxes.
GRAND RAPIDS — If 2016 was the year of planning for myriad multi-family residential projects around West Michigan, 2017 seems to be the year for execution.
A fairly new addition to the West Michigan commercial real estate scene, Grand Rapids-based Vision Real Estate Investment Inc. had a “banner year” in 2016. said President Tim Engen. With a mix of multi-tenant office buildings, industrial facilities and mixed-use residential properties within its portfolio, the firm made headlines in mid 2016 when it paid more than $31 million to acquire 99 Monroe, the fully-leased and renovated downtown Grand Rapids Class A office building.
Anirban Basu thinks West Michigan’s real estate and construction industry has a pretty solid outlook for 2017. The chief economist for the Washington, D.C.-based Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) views the region as having a strong job market and plentiful access to capital. Basu — who is also president and CEO of Baltimore-based economic consulting firm Sage Policy Group Inc. — spoke with MiBiz following his annual presentation in early December to the Western Michigan chapter of ABC.
In recent years, Franklin Partners LLC has been one of West Michigan’s most active developers when it comes to revitalizing under-utilized office and industrial space. Principal Don Shoemaker maintains a bullish outlook for 2017 as his company plans to seek heavy industrial tenants for the former General Motors stamping plant in Wyoming now known as the Site 36 Industrial Park. Franklin Partners also expects to finalize its decision in the first quarter about a redevelopment of the Display Pack site on North Monroe. Future uses there could include offices or residential — or a combination of both.
Orion Real Estate Solutions, the development arm of Grand Rapids-based general contractor Orion Construction Co. Inc., remains one of the most active developers in the market. The firm plans to open about 550 market-rate apartments in early 2017. Orion Real Estate President John Wheeler and Orion Construction President Roger Rehkopf spoke with MiBiz about their outlooks for the industry in 2017.
Municipalities and state and local units of government feel anxious for myriad reasons heading into the new year, according to Mark Nettleton, an attorney focused on municipal law, land use, zoning and real estate at Grand Rapids-based Mika Meyers PLC. With a new presidential administration, clients are unclear just what may be in store for 2017, according to Nettleton. The attorney thinks all manner of issues, from trade and tax policy to business incentives, could impact West Michigan’s municipalities.
Neither the uncertainty of a new presidential administration nor possible interest rate hikes act as a deterrent for development, according to Rick DeKam. “It would take a much larger multiple percentage point increase to dramatically slow our economy, which is not in the Fed’s best interests,” said DeKam, the principal at Portage-based Midwest Realty Group LLC. He believes it’s “smooth sailing” heading into 2017, particularly because of low inventory across commercial real estate sectors in West Michigan and continued high demand.
Peter Skornia, the newly-appointed president of Grand Rapids-based construction and development firm Bazzani Building Co., hopes for a positive 2017. With favorable economic conditions for building and a new partnership aimed at further business development, Skornia expects the company to grow by expanding its workforce and via enhanced marketing.
From craft distilling to artisan food to retailing to niche publishing firms, West Michigan’s small business executives are genuinely upbeat as they look to 2017.
‘Like defusing a bomb:’ Affordable Care Act likely to change, but extent and timing remain uncertainWritten by Mark Sanchez
No matter whether you love or hate the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, what’s become clear is that 2017 will bring major changes to the federal health care reform law.
After completing most of a $66.4 million renovation and expansion in 2016, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital looks to 2017 as a year to finish the project and to reach out further into new markets in Michigan. Mary Free Bed has five contracts with hospitals in Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Traverse City, Lansing and Pontiac to provide inpatient rehabilitative care. The Grand Rapids-based rehab hospital is “just thriving right now as an institution in every way you can measure” and presently is holding discussions with a half-dozen acute-care hospitals to join its care network, CEO Kent Riddle told MiBiz.
Metro Health enters 2017 as a subsidiary of the University of Michigan Health System after the two closed on an affiliation agreement toward the end of 2016. The deal with the Ann Arbor-based U-M Health System gives Metro Health a partner to expand medical services ranging from primary care to specialties. It also allows Metro Health to better compete in the market. President and CEO Mike Faas told MiBiz he believes the deal is the biggest thing to happen in the local health care market since the 1997 merger of the former Butterworth Hospital and Blodgett Memorial Medical Center that created Spectrum Health, the largest care provider in the region.
Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services plans to pursue new partnerships around the state in 2017. CEO Mark Eastburg wants to create a network of hospitals and care providers that contract with the Grand Rapids-based Pine Rest to provide and manage their behavioral health care services. That strategy follows a model that Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital has used effectively to reach out from its home base. Pine Rest has 17 outpatient clinics — 15 in West Michigan and two in Iowa — plus inpatient and residential facilities. The nonprofit employs about 1,900 people and serves 45,000 clients annually.
Spectrum Health President and CEO Rick Breon expects West Michigan’s economy to stay strong in 2017, although the incoming Trump administration and the fate of the Affordable Care Act adds uncertainty to the year ahead for health care. Breon expects the new presidential administration “will, on some level, follow through on its campaign promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.” The big question is when and how that occurs.
Health care moves into a period of uncertainty next year, with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act facing repeal or replacement under incoming President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office along with a Republican-controlled Congress. Enactment of the ACA meant that starting in 2010, Michigan hospitals would forgo $7 billion over a decade in Medicaid and Medicare payments from the federal government in exchange for expanded coverage, said Laura Appel, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at the Michigan Health & Hospital Association. Appel expects the coming debate over the ACA to dominate health care in 2017.
Hope Network CEO Phil Weaver expects a “great year” for the Michigan and U.S. economies in 2017, although he worries about uncertainty created by the likely repeal of the Affordable Care Act or significant changes that may occur to the program. The Grand Rapids-based Hope Network provides neuro-rehabilitation for people with brain injuries, behavioral health care, and services and housing for people with a developmental disability. Hope Network employs about 2,800 people statewide and has an annual operating budget of about $140 million.
Kelly Potes took over in June as CEO at ChoiceOne Financial Services Inc., the parent company of ChoiceOne Bank, adding to his duties as president. During 2016, ChoiceOne Bank opened a lending office in downtown Grand Rapids and may follow up in the future with a full-service branch. The Sparta-based ChoiceOne has 12 offices in rural Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Newaygo counties with total assets of $598.6 million as of Sept. 30.
United Bank of Michigan President and CEO Michael Manica believes the economy was already on track for a good year in 2017. But the election of Donald Trump as president and his pro-business policies should boost the U.S. and the West Michigan economies higher, Manica said. A slow-growth economy that continues “without any signs to become considerably more vibrant” would surprise Manica in 2017. The Grand Rapids-based United Bank has 12 offices in West Michigan — six in Kent County, four in Allegan County and one each in Ionia County and Ottawa County, where a Jenison branch opened earlier this year. The bank had total assets of $596.2 million as of Sept. 30, up 15.8 percent from a year earlier, and deposits totaling $444.4 million, a 10-percent increase.
Huntington National Bank’s West Michigan president, John Irwin, sees more certainty and confidence in the marketplace following the November presidential election. He expects West Michigan’s economy to continue rolling along in 2017. According to Irwin, among business leaders he speaks with, “everyone’s hopeful about the future and what’s going to happen here with this administration” of President-elect Donald Trump and the potential for lower business taxes. They’re also bullish on the prospects to roll back federal regulations on business. Irwin also doubts that higher interest rates will alter the course of the economy.
In 2016, The Right Place Inc. attracted $240.6 million in new capital investment through 19 projects across West Michigan. Although the Grand Rapids-based economic development organization fell short of its three-year goals for jobs and payroll growth, President and CEO Birgit Klohs remains optimistic about Michigan’s economy. Klohs expects to attract more high-tech jobs and industries to the state while continuing to work with companies to find available talent in the region. Klohs discussed with MiBiz some of the issues that West Michigan employers and economic development professionals will face in the coming year.
Talent will continue to reign as the top issue Southwest Michigan First needs to tackle in 2017, according to CEO Ron Kitchens. He believes that the future of communities will depend on their ability to attract and retain Generation X and Millennial workers. To do that, his organization plans to integrate some of its employees into universities around the region, advocate for affordable downtown housing and promote an “open culture,” he said. Kitchens spoke with MiBiz about how economic developers’ jobs are shifting to focus on talent.
While Michigan economic developers have long focused on attracting businesses to the state, Dean Whittaker believes those organizations will increasingly need to focus instead on talent attraction. The president of Holland-based Whittaker Associates Inc. spoke to MiBiz about how a lack of available talent could affect companies and what’s being done to attract more workers to Michigan.
When it comes to the economy in 2017, Grand Valley State University’s Paul Isely largely expects business as usual. However, the associate dean and professor of economics at the Seidman College of Business notes that rising wage pressures on businesses may start pulling the economy into a recession in 2018. While he expects the economy to remain robust, Isely told MiBiz he worries what the incoming presidential administration’s trade and immigration policies could do to businesses in West Michigan in 2017 and beyond.
Steve Arwood hopes to double down on Michigan’s talent attraction and retention efforts in 2017. The CEO of Lansing-based Michigan Economic Development Corp. sees the demand for skilled workers all over the state and hopes that his organization can help to create an effective talent pipeline. Moreover, the MEDC sees itself playing a large-scale role in the state’s development of high-technology transportation.
Like many economic development leaders, Jennifer Owens of Lakeshore Advantage says talent concerns remain a key issue for businesses in 2017. Aside from attracting outside businesses, the organization primarily will focus on training, recruiting and retaining talent next year, she said. To do that, Lakeshore Advantage is pushing a campaign that promotes the region’s leisure opportunities as a way to attract workers. Owens told MiBiz to expect accelerated growth from manufacturers of automation equipment in the coming year and said she’s also “very bullish” on the food processing sector.
Byron Center-based Pilot Malt House LLC, a supplier of malted grains to the beer and distillery industry, has experienced only growth since its founding in 2012. In that time, the company has expanded from 10 acres to 3,000 acres of barley and could break the 4,000-acre mark in 2017. Earlier this year, Pilot Malt signed a deal with ingredient supplier Country Malt Group to have its products distributed nationwide, which could open new possibilities for continued growth, according to founder and President Erik May. He told MiBiz he’s bullish on the craft beer and distilling industries, even as some signs of weakness emerge.
The expansion in the hard cider market cooled last year, with the industry growing just 10.8 percent — a far cry from the 71 percent reported in the prior period, according to market research firm Nielsen. But Andy Sietsema takes those national market trends with a grain of salt, largely because they don’t count craft cideries like Sietsema Cider LLC in their research. “Sales out of our place were up 23.5 percent through this fall,” he said, noting that he also hopes to add two new distribution markets in 2017. According to Sietsema, “constant education” remains a key factor in the industry’s continued growth, even if it’s at a more sustainable rate.
Ringler of Cedar Springs Brewing: Brewery closures possible as crowded industry becomes ‘less forgiving’Written by Joe Boomgaard
With the first year under his belt, Cedar Springs Brewing Co. founder and Director of Happiness David Ringler says he’s pleased the company has surpassed its initial projections. The brewery should end the year having produced about 800 barrels of mostly traditional German-style beer, including Küsterer Original Weißbier, which won a bronze medal in the Great American Beer Fest earlier this year. Ringler hopes to add some new equipment to boost production and distribution in the coming year, “but we have no ambitions of growth at all cost.”
GRAND RAPIDS — The growth of foundations and an unprecedented transfer of wealth are among trends the nonprofit sector will need to watch in the coming year.
With the year ahead being so difficult to predict, Diana Sieger’s advice to nonprofits is to stay focused and keep doing their work well. She believes organizations like KConnect, whose goal is to bring together groups to collectively solve problems, will be essential in both identifying and addressing issues in 2017.
2017 Outlook: Kyle Caldwell, Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy, Grand Valley State UniversityWritten by Josh Veal
With the Affordable Care Act on the chopping block for President-elect Trump’s administration, Kyle Caldwell fears the “tremendous amount of investment by nonprofits and foundations into our health care system” could be all for naught in 2017 unless lawmakers find a suitable replacement. Similarly, “there will be challenges to both foundations and nonprofits as the administration looks to … find efficiencies in government spending, and cuts to services to make way for tax cuts,” he said. On both the state and federal level, lawmakers’ decisions in 2017 have the opportunity to greatly impact nonprofits through bills like SB 960, which clarifies property tax policies.
For 2017, Rob Collier at the Grand Haven-based Council of Michigan Foundations is keeping one eye on Washington and one on Lansing. Collier cited potentially detrimental proposals coming out of the federal level, with beneficial legislation under review at the state level.
Mindy Ysasi says she is hopeful as she watches employers begin to recognize what it actually takes to solve their talent struggles. Employers have to decide what will make them stand out, whether that means they’re helping people achieve certifications and degrees, focusing on sustainability, hiring people who have a criminal background, or something else, she said. “Because of the market, employers are now saying, ‘What is the root cause?’ Some employers are recognizing that in some of our communities, we have 38 percent unemployment for men of color. I’m really very hopeful, because employers have immense power.” At the same time, Ysasi is concerned with the lack of support going to systems like child care and housing that help people enter the workforce.