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WEST MICHIGAN EMPLOYER OUTLOOK POSITIVE DESPITE CHALLENGES

Lakeshore Advantage report analyzes business leader interviews pre-and post-COVID onset

01/29/2021 // ZEELAND, MICH –  Total company sales, new product development, and plans to expand in the next three years remain strong for West Michigan Lakeshore employers despite COVID-19 challenges, according to a Lakeshore Advantage report released today.  The 2020 Business Intelligence Report is the analysis of business executive responses from 120 companies in Allegan, Muskegon, and Ottawa counties in 2020.

“Data drives our work and employer input is crucial to support our local economic base. In the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we administered 10 weekly quick polls and received 1,000 responses that enabled us to meet immediate business needs,” said Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage President. “The 2020 Business Intelligence Report offers a pre-pandemic baseline, and reveals what’s top of mind for area employers as we emerge from crisis stage and look to the future.”

Business leader responses before the COVID-19 pandemic onset and again several months later show that while down from pre-COVID-19 responses, 72% of companies are currently reporting increasing or stable sales. Companies with increasing or stable sales were likely to be in advanced manufacturing, durable goods manufacturing, and food processing industries.

When asked about changes that companies plan to make in the next six months, the top response was increasing sales efforts (47%) followed by increasing marketing efforts (32%).

“This report gives companies in Muskegon, Ottawa, and Allegan Counties an incredibly valuable perspective on how COVID has affected businesses in our region. They can compare how they’re performing with some of the top corporations in West Michigan, see how their own industry has been impacted, and learn about what others are doing to adapt,” said Morgan Carroll, Great Muskegon Economic Development Director of Business Development. “This report also reinforces that every company, no matter their size, has had to make changes, but the overall outlook for growth along the Lakeshore is strong.”

While down slightly from pre-COVID numbers (81% to 74%), nearly three out of four respondents anticipate new products in the next two years. Companies reporting new products on the horizon tended to be in advanced manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, durable goods manufacturing, and food processing industries.

“While the pandemic has been disruptive in many ways, it hasn’t curtailed Gentex’s product development efforts,” said Craig Piersma, Gentex Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications. “This past year, we developed new partnerships, acquired innovative technologies, and expanded our product portfolio not only in the automotive industry, but also entirely new markets. This growth trajectory will continue in 2021 as we extend our capabilities in digital vision, dimmable glass, car connectivity, and sensing systems.”

Prior to March 15, 2020, three out of four employers indicated they had plans to expand in the next three years. When asked this question again several months post-pandemic onset, 55% of business executives indicated plans to expand in the next three years. Perrigo, a leading provider of quality, affordable self-care products with their North American Base of Operations in the West Michigan Lakeshore Region, started construction on two distribution centers in the region in 2020.

“Our combined Allegan and Ottawa County campuses comprise the company’s largest manufacturing operations by far, representing more than half of all the units we produce on a global basis,” said Ron Janish, Perrigo’s Executive Vice President, Global Operations and Supply Chain. “With 11,000 employees globally and over 4,000 employees in West Michigan, the region is truly the cornerstone of our global operating network.”

Business executive interviews were conducted by Lakeshore Advantage, Greater Muskegon Economic Development, The Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg, and other area chambers to produce this regional West Michigan Lakeshore-area report.

“The Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg has been partnering with Lakeshore Advantage on collecting this data for several years, interviewing 20 companies in Northwest Ottawa County to support the great work they have done with publishing this important report. Including business leaders from Northwest Ottawa County responses with others in the lakeshore region gives a regional perspective on the lakeshore’s economic health and vitality,” said Elizabeth Butler, Chamber of Commerce of Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg Director of Economic Development Strategic Directions.

The report also highlights company partnerships and expansions, expansion trends and industry trends to look for in 2021. The full 2020 Business Intelligence Report is available at bir.lakeshoreadvantage.com.

Why Manufacturing Matters in the West Michigan Lakeshore Region

In the West Michigan Lakeshore Region that includes Allegan, Muskegon and Ottawa counties, manufacturing accounts for 28% of all jobs. These workers tend to earn 33% more in hourly compensation (wages and benefits) than comparable workers in the rest of the private sector. Manufacturing accounts for 39.7% of the Gross Regional Product for Allegan, Muskegon and Ottawa counties. (source: Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI)Q1 2021)

 About Lakeshore Advantage

Lakeshore Advantage is a non-profit local economic development organization started in 2003 by forward-focused business and community leaders to ensure current and future generations want to live and work in our vibrant economy. Lakeshore Advantage assists primary employers, from startups to large world-class corporations, in West Michigan’s Allegan and Ottawa counties.

In 2020, Lakeshore Advantage supported 14 business growth projects, resulting in $152 million in private investment and 652 new jobs. We assisted 395 primary employers in 2020, which is double the typical support due to the increased need caused by the global pandemic. In addition, Lakeshore Advantage supported 63 startup companies that raised $2.1 million in capital and administered two grant programs that injected $3.625 million into the local economy for more than 450 small businesses. More at www.lakeshoreadvantage.com.

 – member submission, Lakeshore Advantage

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