Report Reveals West Michigan Lakeshore Companies Are Expanding In A Healthy Regional Ecnonomy

Posted in News on September 28, 2018

9/28/2018 -ZEELAND, Mich. – Employers in Allegan and Ottawa Counties are expanding in a healthy regional economy and report plans to invest at higher rates and create more jobs than last year, according to the 2018 Business Intelligence Report, released by Lakeshore Advantage today.
“This primary research we conduct, meeting with employers to uncover opportunities for and barriers to growth, differentiates us from other economic development organizations,” said Jennifer Owens, President of Lakeshore Advantage. “With this first-hand, real-time information, we are able to support and pivot to assist area employers, ensuring great jobs in a vibrant economy, making our region the best possible choice for business investment to happen here.”
Sixty-nine percent of companies interviewed in the West Michigan Lakeshore Region plan to expand in the next three years. The 2018 Business Intelligence Report is an “Annual Checkup”, reporting on the vital statistics shared by the expanding companies. Of the expanding companies interviewed:
  • 100% invest in training
  • 100% plan to introduce new products or services in the next two years
  • 99% report increasing or stable market share of their key product
  • 89% report increasing or stable international sales
  • 85% invest in research and development
  • 74% report their key product is emerging or growing
  • 25% have college interns
Lakeshore Advantage unveiled the 2018 Business Intelligence Report as part of the organization’sLooking Forward Forum investor series to a standing-room only crowd at Gentex Corporate Headquarters Friday morning. Gentex, Ottawa County’s largest employer, announced plans to expand earlier this year.
“We believe a sustained culture of innovation and investing in the people and community that support that culture are what have allowed our company and this region to thrive economically,” said Steve Downing, President and CEO of Gentex. “Lakeshore Advantage demonstrates this culture through their primary research approach and how they support our region for future economic vitality.”
Half of the companies that provided detail on how they plan to spend their expansion investment reported plans to invest 100% of their expansion investment in technology and/or equipment, compared to 11% planning for their entire expansion investment to be in real estate.
“This leads us to understand that our expanding companies are investing in increasing capacity and technical capabilities, which leads to increased growth in sales, jobs, employee training investment and skills,” said Owens.
The West Michigan Lakeshore region competes nationally for business investment and talent. Over one third of the primary employers in the region have facilities in other states. Of those, 53% plan to expand in the next three years. Given that expanding employers report barriers to growth, with the top barrier being skilled labor supply, the employers have a choice to make regarding where the expansion will occur- in our region or elsewhere. 
“We must be vigilant in playing to our strengths and learning from other regions experiencing wins in business investment and talent attraction to be sure ours is the region of choice for both,” said Jane Clark, President, West Coast Chamber.
Sixty-nine percent of the primary employers interviewed are manufacturers. Manufacturing is the base of the economy in the West Michigan Lakeshore region, with one in four jobs being in the manufacturing industry. 
“Having a deeper understanding of our primary employers’ needs and plans is critical to building upon the success of West Michigan,” said Michelle Fare, Executive Director, Hudsonville Area Chamber of Commerce. “The research conducted by Lakeshore Advantage every year in producing the Business Intelligence Report is invaluable to the leadership of our region in the decision-making process.”
Lakeshore Advantage, along with Allendale Area Chamber of Commerce, Hudsonville Area Chamber of Commerce, West Coast Chamber and The Chamber, Grand Haven-Spring Lake-Ferrysburg, conducted 98 interviews of C-level executives at primary employers in Allegan and Ottawa Counties. The 2018 Business Intelligence Report is the analysis of interviews conducted from June 1, 2017 through May 31, 2018.  
“The annual Business Intelligence Report is a great communication and marketing tool to share with potential new investors about the healthy economic climate we enjoy in Allegan and Ottawa Counties, and is also a must read for our local communities,” said Joy Gaasch, President of The Chamber, Grand Haven-Spring Lake-Ferrysburg. “We appreciate the opportunity to partner in providing data to support this significant economic development report.” 
The region’s diverse manufacturing base that includes food manufacturing, automotive, agriculture, office furniture manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, automation systems among others, is a strength of the region. Respondents reported positive business climate, positive employee work ethic, quality of life and positive community leadership as the greatest strengths of the community.
“Having real time data to identify pain points helps organizations like ours respond by pulling together resources, creating programming and helping to remove red tape that is holding businesses back,” said Janessa Smit, Executive Director, Allendale Area Chamber of Commerce and research partner for the report.  “The work Lakeshore Advantage does to facilitate these surveys and pull together the “business pulse” is critical to our success as a region.”  
The full report can be viewed at .