Evolving economy

Alex Doty • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:43 AM

According to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget, the jobless rate for Grand Haven-Holland area hovered at 7.2 percent for June, compared to 6.5 percent the previous month.

For the Muskegon-Norton Shores area, the unemployment rate stalled at about 9.2 percent, compared with 8.5 percent the previous month.

“I am not convinced that the economy is turning around,” said Eric Morgan, Love INC president and CEO. “If it is, before we’d see it, it will be a longer period of time.”

Morgan noted that all of the Love INC assistance programs are being used as much as ever in recent years, ranging from food assistance to budget and housing help.

According to the state, the rising unemployment rate reflects an increase in the number of people seeking work.

Morgan noted that for those who are seeking work, the situation has changed.

“It’s not like it used to be,” he said. “It’s not like going to a place and asking for an application and waiting for a paycheck.”

St. Pat’s Job Seekers coordinator Shelley Appel said that the improved economy certainly hasn’t lessened the number of unemployed who need help as they seek jobs.

Appel said last year, Job Seekers served an estimated 350 people, and this year, they’re serving an estimated 700 people.

Incubating businesses

One way people can beat the unemployment bug and get back in the workforce is through entrepreneurship — something that is gaining ground in Ottawa County.

The Ottawa County Planning Commission is studying the feasibility of developing a business incubator. An incubator would provide entrepreneurs and business start-ups with facilities, mentoring, training and other forms of assistance.

Ottawa County’s incubator would specifically target entrepreneurs who have a technology-related business idea that is focused on one of our county’s greatest strengths — agriculture — however entrepreneurs with technology-based business ideas not associated with agriculture may also receive assistance.

A study is being conducted to determine the number of entrepreneurs who would take advantage of incubator services, the types of services that are needed, and whether the incubator can be self-sustaining.

Entrepreneurial spirit

For those who want to step out on the ledge and take the jump into entrepreneurship, there are examples in the community that it works. This includes Robinson Township resident Mark Bohn.

“I was downsized out of my job as service manager at (a local factory),” he said. “They discontinued their custom hydraulic press product line.”

After several months of unemployment, Bohn said he was asked by some of the people left in the service department to do a job over a Christmas shut down at a plant in the Detroit area.

“Even though it was just for a week, it was better than unemployment,” Bohn said. “So, I opened my company as a LLC with the state and got the job.”

Bohn continued to get calls from his former employer to do more contract work troubleshooting and repairing hydraulic presses.

“I started doing work at night and on the weekends for their customers,” he said. “After a while, (the company) informed me that they no longer wanted the service work and basically told customers that needed service work to call me.”

The move to start his own repair service center has kept him busy.

“I quit the other job and went full-time,” Bohn said.

Bohn said he has many customers in West Michigan and around the country, and said his business has provided a valuable experience.

“Running your own business has some great rewards like satisfaction of doing something for yourself instead of depending on a company job,” he said. “I not only troubleshoot and repair, but also do a lot of sales and business management, which keeps the work interesting and rewarding to see what or how I am stretched to accomplish all the different areas in running a small business besides learning on the job.”

Added Bohn: “The down side is that I don’t take very many vacations and sometimes the cash flow can be nerve racking. But in 16 years, I have been very blessed and truly owe it all to God; I just do my part and He provides.”

Ottawa County employment statistics:

Month Labor Force   Emp.        Unemployment   Pct. unemployed

Jan.         129,130       119,569         9,561              7.4

Feb.       131,301       121,815         9,486              7.2

March       131,723        122,380        9,343              7.1

April       131,686        123,651         8,035              6.1

May      132,866        124,284         8,582              6.5

June        134,201        124,509         9,692              7.2

Source: Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget

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