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West Michigan executives share outlook for 2017

Written by | Tuesday, 27 December 2016 13:09 |

For the annual year-end Crystal Ball edition, MiBiz asked executives from around West Michigan to share their outlooks for 2017, both for their industry and their companies.

As the economy has recovered from the recession, philanthropic giving nationwide has slowly climbed to an all-time high, in 2015 reaching $373.25 billion, according to a report from the Giving USA Foundation. However, nonprofits rely on funding from other sources as well, and leaders like Carrie Pickett-Erway at Kalamazoo Community Foundation don’t know if those sources will remain secure in the coming year. “We know many of our partners are concerned about major changes they anticipate in state and federal funding,” she said. “Our endowed funds provide a stable source of funding, but would not be able to fill that gap.”

2017 Outlook: Mindy Ysasi, The SOURCE

Written by | Sunday, 25 December 2016 17:44 |

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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 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.” 

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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