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Honigman attorney Pat Lennon projects a period of solid growth for development in the region as transactions continue to heat up. However, he warns that developers must be mindful of how they go about financing deals.

Heightened construction and manufacturing activity amid falling commodity prices have Paul Isely optimistic about the overall economy’s performance next year. However, the chair of the economics department at Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business says the ever-present talent shortage, international events and the long recovery have left him wondering when the next downturn will occur. He spoke with MiBiz about those opportunities and some headwinds the state and national economies face in 2015.

George Erickcek predicts continued strong employment growth in West Michigan for 2015, led by manufacturing and construction jobs, before an easing the following year. The senior regional analyst with the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Erickcek projects overall employment growth of 3.2 percent next year. He projects goods-producing jobs alone to grow by 4.8 percent across a four-county region of the Grand Rapids area that includes Kent, Ionia, Barry and Newaygo counties, driven by continued strong automotive and truck production that will keep suppliers busy. In 2014, the region’s economy grew by what Erickcek calls a “truly phenomenal” rate of 3.8 percent, led by a 5.8 percent gain in goods-producing jobs and 3.4 percent growth in service jobs. He spoke with MiBiz about the drivers for growth and the potential headwinds on the horizon for 2015.

Forecasters generally see improved economic performance for both the U.S. and Michigan in 2015, further driving down unemployment rates.

Interest rates in 2015 will likely begin moving up from their historic low levels, although they should still remain relatively low, economists say.

Increased activity in 2014 sets the stage for more bank M&A in 2015.

The seller’s market that prevailed throughout 2014 should remain in 2015, providing business owners with a good opportunity to find the right buyer and to get a good price for their companies.

Some members of The Employers’ Association, a nonprofit training and human resources organization, believe West Michigan’s growing economy could be teetering on the edge, said David Smith, the organization’s president and CEO. Smith spoke with MiBiz about where wages and hiring are headed for 2015.

Chemical Financial Corp. Chairman, President and CEO David Ramaker expects that 2015 will bring even better economic conditions to Michigan, as well as more bank consolidation. The Midland-based Chemical Financial has been a player in the consolidation trend of the last year, buying Northwestern Bancorp Inc. in Traverse City this fall and then signing a deal to acquire Monarch Community Bank in Coldwater that will close in the first quarter of 2015. In a conversation with MiBiz, Ramaker said Chemical Financial intends to remain active in seeking deals in 2015.

There’s little doubt that advances in technology will continue to drive the economy forward. As technology’s role in the market develops, software in particular will be the key to driving product differentiation, global competitiveness and market share, said Carl Erickson, president of Grand Rapids-based Atomic Object. As his software design and development consultancy plans to close this year with sales of $8.5 million, Erickson spoke with MiBiz on his outlook for the technology and software industry in 2015.

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.

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