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2018 MiBiz Crystal Ball, at a glance

Written by | Tuesday, 26 December 2017 11:14 |

Every year, the Crystal Ball edition from MiBiz offers insights, economic sentiment and forward-looking strategies from West Michigan’s business leaders. Here’s what they had to say about 2018.

2018 Crystal Ball: Momentum

Written by | Sunday, 24 December 2017 19:30 |

In the dozens of interviews with West Michigan executives for this special edition, the notion of momentum — whether within the overall economy, their industry or their company — seemed to dominate their outlook for next year.

As Mayor Rosalynn Bliss looks ahead to her third year in office, she’s tasked with leading a maturing city and grappling with the associated growing pains. The city also faces issues ranging from a constrained housing market to external factors such as potential changes to the federal tax code, which could have consequences for municipalities. Moreover, City Hall just started the process of searching for a new city manager with the hope of having a candidate selected in the first quarter of 2018.

As Gov. Rick Snyder enters his final year in office, he remains optimistic about the state’s overall economic trajectory. The champion of “relentless positive action” continues to place heavy emphasis on better connecting the state’s resources for workforce development with employers in need of skilled talent. He’s also focusing on efforts needed to support the burgeoning autonomous vehicle sector. In a year-end interview with MiBiz, Snyder spoke about what he hopes to see in the state’s next governor.

Dairy industry struggles through downturn

Written by | Sunday, 24 December 2017 18:27 |

Continental Dairy, a dairy processor in Coopersville, Mich., processes more than 300,000 pounds of nonfat dry milk per day and exports product to roughly 17 countries around the world. COO Steve Cooper reflects on why his sector of the agribusiness industry is facing some challenges currently.

Restaurateur Jeff Lobdell’s expanding enterprise includes Bagel Beanery, Beltline Bar, Sundance Grill, Grand Coney, The Omelette Shoppe, Rockwell Republic and more across West Michigan and the Traverse City area. While Lobdell remains optimistic for the future of his growing company, which this year acquired Pete’s Grill & Tavern and the 84th Street Market in Byron Center, he said the restaurant industry needs to adapt to new challenges from technology and a shortage of service workers.

While 480 square feet of space may not seem huge for a taproom, it offers The Peoples Cider Co. needed visibility along the burgeoning West Leonard Street corridor in Grand Rapids. Owner Jason Lummen opened his new taproom in late October on a strip with a distillery and a brewery, which he hopes will create new synergies. The proximity to the other producers has increased the company’s exposure, as well as freed space at his production facility on Maryland Avenue in the Oak Industrial Park. Lummen’s operation currently produces about 200 barrels per year and he hopes that separating his taproom from his production operation offers room for growth. He describes business at the new facility in one word:

As president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, Jim Byrum worries about trade, weather and talent — concerns shared by the farmers and food processors he talks to on a daily basis. Still, he remains optimistic for the sector’s growth next year.

One of the biggest issues Carl Bednarski expects to deal with in 2018 is the national Farm Bill, which will address agricultural concerns in infrastructure, crop insurance and exports. The president of the Michigan Farm Bureau discussed what legislation will affect the agricultural community the most.

The Burma Center is in the business of empowering people through advocacy, community engagement and education. One of its lines of service is Burmese-English language interpretation to serve the 2,500 Burmese residents who have immigrated to the area over the past 15 years. Burma Center advocates for equitable access to resources and services, but Executive Director Martha Thawnghmung says she thinks the pervasiveness of institutional racism and how immigrant groups are often pitted against one another are complicating efforts to unite various groups.

John Dillworth spent much of his career at Kellogg Co. in various positions, including sales, strategic planning, I.T., budget management, customer service, and others. Since 2000, he’s served as president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Southwest Michigan. He talked about the state of the nonprofit sector looking ahead to 2018.

Daniel Jones is entering into his sixth month at the helm of Haven of Rest Ministries in Battle Creek. His tenure followed a restructuring, the closure of one ministry, and staff reductions that decreased employment costs by 20 percent. Jones said these changes resulted in greater efficiencies and service delivery at a lower overall cost to the orgranization.

Decreases in funding from both governmental agencies and other funders who support the needs of the LGBTQ community are cause for concern as Outfront Kalamazoo goes into 2018. Executive Director Jay Maddock said his social justice organization relies on grant funding, individual giving and successful fundraising events, meaning that any hit to the economy will affect all areas of the group’s funding.

The potential effects of recently-passed federal tax reforms loom large on the minds of Michigan’s philanthropic leaders for 2018.

Michigan’s business climate has made great strides in recent years, but there’s still lots of work to do. That was the message delivered in late November by Doug Rothwell, the president and CEO of Detroit-based Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s business roundtable. Released at the organization’s annual CEO Summit, the latest Economic Competitiveness Benchmarking Report shows the state continues to make improvements in terms of jobs, income and productivity, but it still lacks in college and career readiness and educational attainment, for example. And while incomes have improved, Michigan continues to lag other peer states, according to the data. 

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