Manufacturing

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Most manufacturers can expect to fork over less in taxes for last year, and companies that monitor the shifting provisions could capitalize on greater investment in a few key areas. Although most of the tax cuts from the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 became effective for manufacturers on Jan. 1, 2018, businesses in all industries have been left with questions and uncertainty about how the new laws need to be applied, said Joel Mitchell, a tax partner at Plante Moran PLLC in Grand Rapids.

NORTON SHORES — A company that moved out of Norton Shores before its tax abatements expired is now suing the lakeshore community and fighting the city’s demands for repayment of nearly $1 million.

WYOMING — A Cleveland-based producer of specialty abrasive products plans to move part of its business to the Grand Rapids area after it was acquired by local private equity firm Stone Fox Ventures LLC.

NORTON SHORES — A lakeshore community is asking a manufacturer Wacker Neuson Corp. to pay back lost tax revenue after the company left town before fulfilling the obligations of its tax abatement. Wacker Neuson, a manufacturer of construction equipment that had been located in Norton Shores since 2007, closed its facility at 1300 E. Mount Garfield Road in August 2018, two and a half years before the expiration of one of six tax abatements it received.

A Southwest Michigan box manufacturer has agreed to pay $400,000 after it faced allegations of misconduct in connection to a multi-state subcontract with the federal government.

West Michigan-based contract furniture makers Steelcase Inc. and Herman Miller Inc. expect to maintain sales momentum going into 2019.

Now that all adults in Michigan can legally use marijuana, employers are weighing how the new law — and misunderstandings about it — could affect their workforces.

Hines Corp., a family-owned industrial holding company, has divested its Ohio-based Hines Specialty Vehicle Group.

Whether the West Michigan manufacturing industry continues on an ongoing growth trend in 2019 or veers into a contraction remains uncertain. Economist Paul Isely, associate dean for undergraduate programs in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University, uses automotive, furniture, agriculture, and “amazingly nowadays” aerospace manufacturing to find the pulse of where the region’s economy is headed in the coming months and years. 

West Michigan-based manufacturing executives think 2019 marks a good time to take a pause from the recent breakneck pace of capital investments and acquisitions to focus on operations. That’s the general consensus from local manufacturing leaders across a range of industries who participated in a forward-looking roundtable discussion with MiBiz earlier this month. 

West Michigan manufacturers are dealing with a host of issues, ranging from trade and tariffs to talent and technology. As they wade through those challenges, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West is there to help, according to Regional Director Justine Burdette. As MMTC seeks to “maintain that closeness and relationships with our manufacturers,” the organization is finding new ways to adapt and address their needs, she said. 

Cascade Die Casting Group Inc. is a manufacturer heavily concentrated in the automotive industry. Although the company recently lost business related to the closure of several General Motors plants, the industry shift from low price-point cars to higher-margin trucks and SUVs has President Patrick Greene cautiously optimistic about continued growth in 2019.

This year, unemployment rates have dropped to an 18-year low and local manufacturers are scrambling to find new and innovative ways to grow without gaps. As founder of the advisory firm 100X LLC and chair of Vistage Executive Peer Group, an executive coaching organization, former manufacturing exec Steve Johandes helps dozens of local organizations and companies position themselves for “what’s next” in the market. 

Women are critical to addressing the serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled production positions, according to Kelly Springer, CEO of Metal Flow Corp., a Holland-based automotive supplier. Yet, relatively few women choose manufacturing careers. As chair of Inforum’s ManufacturingNext steering committee, Springer is helping to strengthen the talent pipeline of women who thrive in manufacturing professions. 

After acquiring Nuvar Inc. in May from its long-time owner, Amy Sparks is executing on growth plans for the Holland-based manufacturer and developer of finished goods primarily for the contract furniture industry. While she’s mindful of some softening in the broader market, Sparks remains “cautiously optimistic” for the economy in 2019. 

The 2019 forecast for the automotive industry remains steady, although sales are expected to experience “a little bit of a step down” to 16.8 million units compared to an expected 17.1 million units this year, according to Mike Wall, director of automotive analysis at IHS Markit. The big cloud over the industry currently hinges on tariffs and trade deals, specifically the United States Mexico Canada Agreement. Wall expects the USMCA to get enacted in some form, even though he does expect to see “some adjustments on the margins.”

Contract furniture manufacturer Herman Miller Inc. today reported strong quarterly sales and earnings gains.

A Northern Michigan Tier 1 supplier of engineered plastic assemblies has been acquired by a private equity firm.

Steelcase Inc. posted strong, double-digit gains in sales and earnings for its most recent quarter.

Spartan Motors Inc. has acquired a Florida-based company that helps outfit vehicles with lighting, accessories and communications equipment.

KENTWOOD — Charter Industries Extrusions LLC, a supplier of carpentry components for the furniture and casegoods industries, has been acquired by a Pittsburgh, Pa.-based private equity firm.

Grand Rapids Community College will receive $100,000 from heavy metal band Metallica to support new programming, the school announced today.

GRAND HAVEN — By investing in three new injection molding machines in 2018, Anderson Technologies Inc. is betting that Industry 4.0 technologies will counter the effects of a shrinking workforce locally and nationally. 

MANISTEE — A Northern Michigan-based manufacturer of electronics and electrical assemblies has been acquired by a portfolio company of New Water Capital Partners LP of Boca Raton, Fla. 

GRAND RAPIDS — Steve Weber’s purchase of Performance Die Cutting and Finishing LLC proves it’s hard to stifle the will of an entrepreneur to be his own boss. 

Global direct-selling giant Amway Corp. has eliminated 45 management-level positions across various areas of the company including HR, supply chain, legal, IT, strategic planning, and finance.

With 2018 shaping up as slower than expected for the automotive supply chain, West Michigan-based tool and die makers are embracing diversification to counter the cyclical industry.

GRAND RAPIDS — For its first acquisition, Northville-based Orchard Creek Capital LLC targeted an investment in an established, family-owned manufacturing company.

HOLLAND — Johnson Controls International plc would exit its last remaining automotive industry manufacturing operations in West Michigan if it completes a transaction announced this week.

KALAMAZOO — Recycler Schupan & Sons Inc. plans to invest $10.1 million into expansions at a pair of locations in Southwest Michigan.

GRAND RAPIDS — AUVESY GmbH, a German-based provider of data management software for industrial automation, plans to make West Michigan its home base for expansion into the U.S.

While many companies adopt automation to improve factory efficiency and equipment uptime, some West Michigan-based experts warn that improperly implemented technology can cost businesses in the long run.

WALKER — The federal government’s move to protect potential breaches in its supply chain is having an adverse effect for defense manufacturers in West Michigan and beyond.

ALLEGAN — Perrigo Co. plc’s new CEO promised to return the company to “its winning ways” following a dismal quarterly earnings report.

ZEELAND — Novo Building Products has acquired L.J. Smith Inc., a 133-year-old producer of parts for stairs that’s based in Bowerston, Ohio. 

Five Michigan-based businesses in the fire and safety equipment industry sold last month to St. Paul, Minn.-based Summit Companies.

GRAND RAPIDS — GNAP LLC, a distributor of abrasive products, equipment, specialty ceramics and ancillary services, completed a majority recapitalization with Dallas, Texas-based private equity firm CenterOak Partners LLC.

GRAND RAPIDS — Proos Manufacturing Inc. has come under new ownership.

NEWAYGO — A West Michigan Tier I automotive supplier is investing $45 million into a 175,000-square-foot facility expansion designed to improve workflow and efficiency. 

Manufacturers are pulling out all the stops in an attempt to build a pipeline of talent for the future. 

COOPERSVILLE — Manufacturers used to years-long product cycles have been hesitant to embrace the frenetic pace of change that comes with the adoption of cutting-edge technologies on their factory floors. 

Air compressor manufacturer Gast Manufacturing Inc. plans to invest $6 million into its existing facility in Berrien County.

A Grand Rapids-based automotive supplier has acquired Emergent Carbon Wheels, a Kansas City, Kan.-based manufacturer of carbon fiber composite wheels.

Automotive supplier Yanfeng Automotive Interiors has permanently laid off 55 West Michigan employees as it plans to relocate its North American headquarters to Novi.

Private equity firm Auxo Investment Partners has completed its fifth acquisition in 13 months with a deal for a Warren-based stamping manufacturer.

As supply chains adjust to new realities in international trade, West Michigan manufacturers are entering the final months of 2018 with “caution.”

A group of investors plans to open a commercial-scale malting and grain-processing facility about an hour east of Kalamazoo to serve the region’s growing craft beverage industry.

Direct-selling giant Amway Corp. has hired a new outside CEO.