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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. 

In 2016, The Right Place Inc. attracted $240.6 million in new capital investment through 19 projects across West Michigan. Although the Grand Rapids-based economic development organization fell short of its three-year goals for jobs and payroll growth, President and CEO Birgit Klohs remains optimistic about Michigan’s economy. Klohs expects to attract more high-tech jobs and industries to the state while continuing to work with companies to find available talent in the region. Klohs discussed with MiBiz some of the issues that West Michigan employers and economic development professionals will face in the coming year. 

2017 Outlook: John Irwin, Huntington Bank

Written by | Sunday, 25 December 2016 17:20 |

Huntington National Bank’s West Michigan president, John Irwin, sees more certainty and confidence in the marketplace following the November presidential election. He expects West Michigan’s economy to continue rolling along in 2017. According to Irwin, among business leaders he speaks with, “everyone’s hopeful about the future and what’s going to happen here with this administration” of President-elect Donald Trump and the potential for lower business taxes. They’re also bullish on the prospects to roll back federal regulations on business. Irwin also doubts that higher interest rates will alter the course of the economy.

United Bank of Michigan President and CEO Michael Manica believes the economy was already on track for a good year in 2017. But the election of Donald Trump as president and his pro-business policies should boost the U.S. and the West Michigan economies higher, Manica said. A slow-growth economy that continues “without any signs to become considerably more vibrant” would surprise Manica in 2017. The Grand Rapids-based United Bank has 12 offices in West Michigan — six in Kent County, four in Allegan County and one each in Ionia County and Ottawa County, where a Jenison branch opened earlier this year. The bank had total assets of $596.2 million as of Sept. 30, up 15.8 percent from a year earlier, and deposits totaling $444.4 million, a 10-percent increase.

Kelly Potes took over in June as CEO at ChoiceOne Financial Services Inc., the parent company of ChoiceOne Bank, adding to his duties as president. During 2016, ChoiceOne Bank opened a lending office in downtown Grand Rapids and may follow up in the future with a full-service branch. The Sparta-based ChoiceOne has 12 offices in rural Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Newaygo counties with total assets of $598.6 million as of Sept. 30. 

Hope Network CEO Phil Weaver expects a “great year” for the Michigan and U.S. economies in 2017, although he worries about uncertainty created by the likely repeal of the Affordable Care Act or significant changes that may occur to the program. The Grand Rapids-based Hope Network provides neuro-rehabilitation for people with brain injuries, behavioral health care, and services and housing for people with a developmental disability. Hope Network employs about 2,800 people statewide and has an annual operating budget of about $140 million.

Health care moves into a period of uncertainty next year, with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act facing repeal or replacement under incoming President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office along with a Republican-controlled Congress. Enactment of the ACA meant that starting in 2010, Michigan hospitals would forgo $7 billion over a decade in Medicaid and Medicare payments from the federal government in exchange for expanded coverage, said Laura Appel, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at the Michigan Health & Hospital Association. Appel expects the coming debate over the ACA to dominate health care in 2017.

Spectrum Health President and CEO Rick Breon expects West Michigan’s economy to stay strong in 2017, although the incoming Trump administration and the fate of the Affordable Care Act adds uncertainty to the year ahead for health care. Breon expects the new presidential administration “will, on some level, follow through on its campaign promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.” The big question is when and how that occurs.

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services plans to pursue new partnerships around the state in 2017. CEO Mark Eastburg wants to create a network of hospitals and care providers that contract with the Grand Rapids-based Pine Rest to provide and manage their behavioral health care services. That strategy follows a model that Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital has used effectively to reach out from its home base. Pine Rest has 17 outpatient clinics — 15 in West Michigan and two in Iowa — plus inpatient and residential facilities. The nonprofit employs about 1,900 people and serves 45,000 clients annually.

Metro Health enters 2017 as a subsidiary of the University of Michigan Health System after the two closed on an affiliation agreement toward the end of 2016. The deal with the Ann Arbor-based U-M Health System gives Metro Health a partner to expand medical services ranging from primary care to specialties. It also allows Metro Health to better compete in the market. President and CEO Mike Faas told MiBiz he believes the deal is the biggest thing to happen in the local health care market since the 1997 merger of the former Butterworth Hospital and Blodgett Memorial Medical Center that created Spectrum Health, the largest care provider in the region.

After completing most of a $66.4 million renovation and expansion in 2016, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital looks to 2017 as a year to finish the project and to reach out further into new markets in Michigan. Mary Free Bed has five contracts with hospitals in Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Traverse City, Lansing and Pontiac to provide inpatient rehabilitative care. The Grand Rapids-based rehab hospital is “just thriving right now as an institution in every way you can measure” and presently is holding discussions with a half-dozen acute-care hospitals to join its care network, CEO Kent Riddle told MiBiz. 

No matter whether you love or hate the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, what’s become clear is that 2017 will bring major changes to the federal health care reform law.

From craft distilling to artisan food to retailing to niche publishing firms, West Michigan’s small business executives are genuinely upbeat as they look to 2017. 

Peter Skornia, the newly-appointed president of Grand Rapids-based construction and development firm Bazzani Building Co., hopes for a positive 2017. With favorable economic conditions for building and a new partnership aimed at further business development, Skornia expects the company to grow by expanding its workforce and via enhanced marketing. 

Neither the uncertainty of a new presidential administration nor possible interest rate hikes act as a deterrent for development, according to Rick DeKam. “It would take a much larger multiple percentage point increase to dramatically slow our economy, which is not in the Fed’s best interests,” said DeKam, the principal at Portage-based Midwest Realty Group LLC. He believes it’s “smooth sailing” heading into 2017, particularly because of low inventory across commercial real estate sectors in West Michigan and continued high demand. 

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