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Grand Valley State University will continue to grow its presence in and around downtown Grand Rapids in 2018. As well, the university also hopes to tap into the ever-changing world of technology and data as a means of improving the learning experience for students. President Tom Haas discussed these topics and more at the recent Business Leaders For Michigan CEO Summit in Detroit.

Charles Owens’ nearly 25 years as director of the Michigan office for the National Federation of Independent Businesses has coincided with four governors in Lansing: Jim Blanchard, John Engler, Jennifer Granholm and Rick Snyder. Since Gov. Snyder is term-limited, Michigan voters will elect a new governor in 2018, a year in which the NFIB will get involved to oppose two possible ballot proposals: One to require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees, and the other to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022. That’s on top of a minimum wage increase of 35 cents to $9.25 per hour on Jan. 1. The NFIB also plans to back a proposal to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law.

In 2018, Michigan voters will elect a new governor to succeed Rick Snyder — who’s term-limited and cannot run again — as well as a new Legislature. John Truscott, president of the public relations firm Truscott Rossman Group LLC and a veteran of the Lansing political scene, says Republicans who have been in charge for years in Lansing need to guard against complacency if they want to maintain control.

Craig Lubben and Robert Wolford become co-managing members on Jan. 1 at the Grand Rapids-based law firm Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey PLC, succeeding retiring managing member Craig Mutch. Wolford and Lubben will oversee management and strategy at the firm, serve on the five-member management committee and continue with their respective law practices. Wolford, based out of the firm’s Grand Rapids office, will lead client service strategies and marketplace development. From the Kalamazoo office, Lubben manages business functions that include chairing the management committee and overseeing long-term professional and operational interests.

Rather than focusing on massive corporate attraction projects, local economic developers should instead put their efforts behind homegrown entrepreneurial talent. That’s according to Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C. policy organization that tracks economic development deals around the country.

Jeff Mason took over in mid July as CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. after eight years of running the University Research Corridor, a coalition of the state’s top three research universities including Michigan State, Wayne State and the University of Michigan. According to Mason, talent remains the top issue for the MEDC, particularly as the state’s economy continues to grow.

Next year, Michigan voters will elect the person who will become the fifth governor that The Right Place CEO Birgit Klohs has worked with in her career in economic development. While her organization is “agnostic” when it comes to who wins the election, Klohs hopes to continue to have a strong working relationship with the new chief executive and that the new governor continues to support the efforts of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

GRAND RAPIDS — Employers continue to struggle to find people to fill open positions and drive growth in their business.

Private equity firm Concurrence Capital Holdings LLC made its first investment in September with the acquisition of Mission Design & Automation LLC, a 13-year-old producer of automation systems for the automotive, office furniture, medical and consumer goods industries. Formed earlier in the year by partners Jason Byrd and Michael Brom, Concurrence Capital looks to invest in more companies as the U.S. economy appears poised to remain in good shape throughout 2018.

The further the U.S. gets from the last downturn, the greater the likelihood that another challenge will eventually “rear its head again,” says Mercantile Bank Corp. President and CEO Robert Kaminski. Yet as 2018 approaches, Kaminski doesn’t see any warnings signs from the Grand Rapids-based bank’s clients that portend a downturn is imminent. Instead, he expects the U.S. economy to stay on track.

As the end of 2017 approached, Grand Rapids-based Independent Bank Corp. cut a deal to buy TCSB Bancorp Inc. in Traverse City, the parent company of Traverse City State Bank. The $63.2 million deal, which is expected to close in the first half of 2018 pending approval from regulators and TCSB Bancorp shareholders, would extend Independent Bank’s presence in northwestern Michigan, where Traverse City State Bank has five offices and assets of $346.9 million. Independent Bank, which opened lending offices in Traverse City and other markets this year, has 65 branches across the Lower Peninsula with total assets of $2.75 billion as of Sept. 30.

2017 was a busy year for Grand Rapids-based Lake Michigan Credit Union with the opening of new branches and mortgage offices, insurance agency acquisitions, and the pending deal for Encore Bank in Naples, Fla. Michigan’s largest credit union, LMCU has 42 branch locations, three of them in Florida, and total assets of $5.1 billion as of Sept. 30, up more than 9 percent from a year earlier. President and CEO Sandra Jelinski expects more growth in 2018 as the economy remains in good shape.

Grand Rapids private equity firm Auxo Investment Partners completed three acquisitions in the latter months of 2017, the most recent of which came in early December in a deal for M/G Transport Services, a New Orleans-based barge company. The firm previously acquired Atlas Die LLC of Elkhart, Ind. and Bernal LLC of Rochester Hills, Mich. in September. Formed in 2016 by partners Jeff Helminski, Fred Tedori and Jack Kolodny, Auxo Investment Partners looks toward 2018 with what Helminski calls “a tremendous amount of momentum.”

Tim Streit and McKeel Hagerty started venture capital fund Grand Ventures I LP in Grand Rapids last March and went on to make three investments during the year in companies in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. Each of the deals were co-investments for Grand Ventures, which invests early-stage capital in technology startups in agriculture, manufacturing, mobility and transportation, as well as other industries in Michigan and the Midwest. A regulatory filing last spring indicated the venture capital fund planned to raise up to $50 million from investors.

Steve Starnes expects the bulls to continue their run on Wall Street in 2018, after a steady increase in 2017 that came with much volatility. The 2018 midterm congressional elections could contribute to generating renewed normal volatility in the stock market after investors enjoyed a “pretty calm market” in 2017, said Starnes, a certified financial planner and principal at Grand Rapids-based Grand Wealth Management.

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