Posted in News on September 12, 2017

9/12/2017 // HOLLAND, MICH – The West Michigan Lakeshore Region is the best place for business in the US Midwest, according to the 2017 West Michigan Lakeshore Region Business Intelligence Report released this morning by Lakeshore Advantage. The non-profit organization that works directly with primary employers unveiled the report at the sold-out West Coast Chamber Early Bird Breakfast this morning at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center in Holland.
“Employers who invest in talent, which is common with the culture of the business climate here, experience increased sales and create new products and services, allowing for continued business and sales growth,” said Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage. “I see this regularly with employers we work with and am glad but not surprised to see this culture spread throughout the West Michigan Lakeshore Region, as evident in this extended report.”
The report is the analysis of 117 interviews with top primary employer company leaders and allows for understanding of economic strengths, growth opportunities and barriers to growth faced by them. Primary employers export goods and services out of the region and bring wealth back into the community. These employers form the very core of the region’s economic vitality, driving home the importance of understanding trends and operational needs critical to the region’s economic base.
“The one-on-one interview with employers allows for real conversation about opportunities and barriers to growth in our region,” said Nora Balgoyen, Allegan County Economic Development Commission Director. “It’s icing on the cake to gain a deeper understanding of our strengths and weaknesses through this comparison of our region to the US Midwest.”
Collaboration between multiple economic development organizations resulted in this report reflecting input from employers in the entire West Michigan Lakeshore Region, including Muskegon, Ottawa and Allegan Counties, for the first time ever. The expanded geographical footprint allowed for comparison of the West Michigan Lakeshore Region to the US Midwest. Partnering organizations include Allegan County Economic Development Commission, The Chamber (Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg), Lakeshore Advantage, Muskegon Area First, Talent 2025 and West Coast Chamber.
“We raised our hand to see how we could extend this information to Muskegon County, and are able to do that through this collaboration with Lakeshore Advantage and other regional economic developers,” said Darryl Todd, Interim President/CEO with Muskegon Area First. “This information provides a baseline for our primary employers and gives us action steps to encourage further economic growth.”
The West Michigan Lakeshore Region outpaces the US Midwest in areas including sales and business growth. The report states that 94% of West Michigan Lakeshore Region company leader respondents indicated their sales were either increasing or stable, compared to 66% of US Midwest companies. More than twice as many companies in the West Michigan Lakeshore Region experience international sales, with 68% reporting affirmative versus 26% of US Midwest companies answering yes. When asked about expansion plans in the next three years, 75% of West Michigan Lakeshore Region companies indicated they planned to expand compared to 50% of companies in the US Midwest.
“The opportunity to interview and analyze responses from our employers, and then to see how we compare to the US Midwest makes us stronger and more attractive as a place for business,” said Dana Kollewehr, Director of Community and Economic Development with The Chamber, Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg. “This report and its analysis provide invaluable information on our primary employers and how we can assist their future growth.”
Research and Development investment is a strength of companies in the West Michigan Lakeshore Region, with companies indicating they invest in R&D at a rate 60% higher than that of US Midwest companies. Ninety-one percent of West Michigan Lakeshore Region companies interviewed said they released a new product or service in the last five years, and 82% plan to do the same in the next two years.
The West Michigan Lakeshore Region also fared better than the US Midwest in the areas of business climate, workforce and quality of life. While talent was named as a strength of the West Michigan Lakeshore Region for business, it was also identified as the primary barrier to growing in the region. In addition, this is the first year the topic of “housing” has appeared significantly in interview responses.
“Face-to-face interviews with top company decision makers add color to the picture of employers’ current and future talent needs,” said Kevin Stotts, Talent 2025 President. “The collaboration that exists here to support primary employers is outstanding, and is definitely one of this region’s strengths.”
Lakeshore Advantage has been interviewing area primary employers using a vetted economic development survey and analysis tool, Synchronist, since 2010. The 38-question, seven-page interview is conducted with the goal of identifying growth challenges and opportunities to support business retention and growth.
The West Michigan Lakeshore Region consists of Muskegon, Ottawa and Allegan counties. The US Midwest includes the eleven states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin. 
To download the West Michigan Lakeshore Region Business Intelligence Report, visit