Manufacturing

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After a strong 2016, most West Michigan manufacturers are looking ahead to this year with optimism that they will continue to grow as the economy expands. 

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Despite the possibility of easing emissions regulations and historically low gasoline prices, LG Chem Michigan Inc. remains charged about the possibilities for electrified vehicles. 

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MUSKEGON — After a career spent in a variety of management and sales roles in the packaging industry, Rich Wilson decided it was time to strike out on his own. 

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KALAMAZOO — The U.S. Air Force could rely on satellites designed by Western Michigan University students to diagnose issues with high-tech propulsion systems in space.

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After months of depressed oil prices, West Michigan manufacturers with operations in the oil-and-gas industry could soon experience a reprieve. 

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NEW TROY — After a large bet on the oil and gas industry went south several years ago, Vickers Engineering Inc. struggled to position itself for growth. 

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After one of the largest political upsets in recent history, West Michigan automotive suppliers have started assessing how a Donald Trump presidency could affect their industry. 

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GRAND RAPIDS — When hackers shut down popular websites including Twitter and Spotify in October, they enlisted myriad devices, ranging from coffee makers and appliances to webcams, to carry out the attack. 

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KALAMAZOO — When Folia Water Inc. sought to partner with a paper manufacturer to advance its water filtration technology from the initial proof of concept phase, the company faced a dilemma. 

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While West Michigan may lack the depth of resources and talent that some regions of the country possess when it comes to the medical device industry, it may have one key advantage: the affordability of its contract manufacturing. 

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HOLLAND — Stepping into the showroom at Cento Anni LLC is a sensory experience. 

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ZEELAND — The talent crunch has created a conundrum for many West Michigan manufacturers. 

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GALESBURG — After more than 50 years operating in the same building, Impact Label Corp. has relocated its headquarters from Kalamazoo to Galesburg. 

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As waves of baby boomers continue to reach retirement age, many have faced the prospect of selling the manufacturing companies they’ve built over the years. 

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CHARLOTTE — Spartan Motors Inc. has landed on the short list for a potentially large government contract to make the next generation of delivery vehicles for the United States Postal Service. 

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HOLLAND — As robotic technology continues to improve, manufacturers of automation equipment are finding their customers demand larger, more complex systems.

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The automotive industry has been very good for West Michigan, in spite of the challenges that it has dished up for component suppliers over the last several decades. 

Editor’s note:
 
After more than 13 years of writing the Auto Focus column for MiBiz, Melissa Anderson plans to retire as a columnist, effective immediately, as she winds down her storied career in automotive analysis and research. In the short term, she and her husband plan to travel in the Southern Hemisphere. “I have enjoyed writing the column and it has been a good long run,” Anderson said. Anderson’s business intelligence on the automotive industry will be missed. “Melissa was our ideal business columnist because she was able to talk with a lot of knowledge about trends in the global automotive industry while also providing a lot of local context, examples and data,” said MiBiz Publisher Brian Edwards. MiBiz will continue its search for a new automotive/manufacturing columnist throughout the coming months.

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BATTLE CREEK — Concerns over national security could spark wider access to a $100 billion industry for West Michigan manufacturers.

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GRANT — When Porous Pave Inc. began in 2008, the manufacturer of permeable paving technology had trouble tapping into the commercial market. 

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ZEELAND — In a new lawsuit, a West Michigan office furniture manufacturer accuses a Canadian company of producing and selling knock offs of one of the industry’s iconic designs. 

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As automakers have invested in high-profile technologies and lightweighting, they’ve also started to pay more attention to the place in their vehicles where drivers spend the most time: the interiors. 

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NILES — One Southwest Michigan supplier of industrial coatings aims to double the size of its organization through a new expansion project.

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The possibility of unattended driving, courtesy of Google or Apple, seems like a futuristic luxury, something out of a Dick Tracy cartoon in the memories of Baby Boomers. And yet, automakers are citing timelines that put it right around the corner. 

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Despite ongoing concerns about a talent gap, employment in West Michigan’s construction industry continues to rise. 

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While many pieces still need to be assembled, Michigan’s growing forest products industry remains on track to transform into a robust and sustainable market. 

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SPRING LAKE — The residential housing boom in downtown Grand Rapids has led one West Michigan manufacturer of commercial casework and other custom furniture to shift its focus. 

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West Michigan automotive suppliers have a lot on their plates as they prepare their businesses to be competitive in the coming years. 

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The automotive industry rapidly approaches a convergence point. 

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To move beyond a looming sales plateau, automakers will need to appeal to the generation they’ve long-feared prefers car-sharing services and cycling to owning automobiles. 

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Lower fuel prices may have shifted consumers’ buying habits toward trucks and SUVs, but most automotive suppliers believe electric vehicle technology is here to stay. 

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GRAND RAPIDS — A statewide coalition of community colleges, including Grand Rapids Community College, is vying for federal grant dollars that would provide free tuition for students in key advanced manufacturing programs. 

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When we talk about the automotive supply chain, the focus is often on component manufacturers, the companies that produce the parts that are assembled into vehicles at the automakers’ plants. 

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BYRON CENTER — As scrutiny over law enforcement agencies mounts in the wake of recent high-profile deadly force incidents, an increasing number of police departments have adopted body camera technology.

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KENTWOOD — As medical device manufacturers work to maintain compliance with ever-tightening federal regulations, one West Michigan consulting firm aims to make at least one part of the process easier. 

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GRAND RAPIDS — After purposely avoiding deals in the automotive industry, private equity firm Blackford Capital has shifted its strategy with the acquisition of a Southeast Michigan supplier.  

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ZEELAND — A small but growing number of West Michigan manufacturers hope America’s space ambitions will take off and allow them to continue to develop a niche market.

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The mood of the country as reflected in the major political parties suggests a sharp turn against global free trade. 

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SPARTA — Buoyed by a $20 million investment, Tesa Tape Inc. aims to transform one if its West Michigan facilities into the North American hub for adhesive tape production and development. 

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British voters wanted to send a message with the Brexit vote, and it was certainly heard loud and clear by manufacturers in West Michigan. 

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RICHLAND — As manufacturers turn to automation and robotics to speed production and increase efficiencies, one soon-to-be graduate of Western Michigan University aims to bring that technology to machine shops. 

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Apart from uncertainty caused by global turmoil and the current political landscape, the office furniture industry seems primed for at least two more years of positive, albeit modest, growth.

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MUSKEGON — A pair of West Michigan entrepreneurs want to create a market for onsite electrical power generation by undercutting large utilities with cheaper electricity costs. 

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