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Developing an exit strategy and access to growth capital — not to mention talent — are all top of mind for small business owners in West Michigan, says Nancy Boese, the interim director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center. For the manufacturing and service sectors, that means companies must pay close attention to their supply chains.

Small business owners will have a better economy working in their favor in 2015, which generates what is actually a good problem to have: Namely, they all face increased competition for talent because more companies are hiring. That’s just one of the issues raised by Rob Fowler, the president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan. He spoke with MiBiz about the prospects for small business owners in 2015.

The Grand Rapids Community Foundation currently has $329 million in assets and 643 active funds. The foundation manages and builds these funds to provide grants to nonprofits within the community. For the past 27 years, Diana Sieger has held the position as the foundation’s president. She spoke with MiBiz about her outlook for West Michigan’s nonprofit sector.  

With its headquarters in Byron Center and with more than 90 stores spread throughout Michigan, SpartanNash Co. (Nasdaq: SPTN) has long been a major employer and a key retail anchor in communities across the state. But after its $1.3 billion mega-merger with Nash Finch Co. last year, the company spread its business well beyond Michigan’s borders. It now has operations in more than 40 states. Of its 16,000 associates, just half are employed in Michigan. President and CEO Dennis Eidson and Executive Vice President and CFO David Staples spoke with MiBiz about whether consumers’ behaviors have changed in the post-recession economic environment and how the company plans to deploy its capital in the new year.

With five of its own developments and roughly a dozen construction management jobs scheduled to be completed in 2015, Orion Construction feels confident about the new year, said executive John Wheeler. The firm’s most visible project is the mixed-use Arena Place development in downtown Grand Rapids, but the Grand Rapids-based contractor has several other mixed-use developments and hotel projects in the planning stages, Wheeler said. Wheeler spoke with MiBiz about the firm’s outlook as Orion projects revenue to reach $110 million next year.

As the president of Ada-based Erhardt Construction Co., Ben Wickstrom wants to attract people not only to his firm, but also to the larger construction industry. Wickstrom was one the founding members of the Construction Workforce Development Alliance (CWDA), a group consisting of three local trade associations. He spoke with MiBiz about how the group aims to create a pipeline of workers.

The success of the West Michigan construction and real estate development industries in 2015 will hinge on companies’ ability to develop, attract and retain talent.

Just because more people are getting health coverage through the Affordable Care Act doesn’t necessarily mean they have easier access to the care they need. Care providers need to ensure they have the right capacity so people can get to see a doctor when they need it, said Bill Manns, the president of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids. The move to high-deductible health plans also has some people still struggling to access health care because they can’t afford to pay the deductible. Manns spoke with MiBiz about why those issues need attention in 2015.

Health care costs are moderating and last year grew at the slowest pace in 53 years.

The evolution of West Michigan’s craft brewing industry can be measured in more ways than the growing volume of beer they produce.

Credit and capital remain readily available for companies seeking to make an acquisition or pursuing investors in 2015.

West Michigan’s furniture manufacturers seem to have hit their stride. Despite projections cooling off from earlier in 2014, the outlook for the industry looks bright next year – driven by pent-up demand and greater willingness to invest, said Mike Dunlap, principal of Holland-based Michael A. Dunlap & Associates LLC. Dunlap spoke with MiBiz about his views on the industry and its challenges in 2015.

The office furniture industry picked up momentum in the third quarter and should remain in a steady growth mode through 2015, according to an updated industry outlook.

The auto industry has done well in 2014 and we expect to see more of the same in 2015. For suppliers and automakers, this is good news that carries some complexity, given the caution with which everyone is approaching decisions on when to add capacity.

While auto analyst Mike Wall at IHS Automotive Group projects production to hit 17.4 million units in 2015, he sees a series of trends including platform globalization, emerging technology and market uncertainty as driving the industry going forward. He spoke with MiBiz about the opportunities and challenges facing the automotive industry in the year ahead.

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