Report sheds light on industry growth, investment

Alex Doty • Oct 27, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Officials from the local Chamber of Commerce have made the rounds to area municipalities in recent weeks, highlighting details of the 2017 Business Intelligence Report for the Lakeshore region.

“It's a great tool for us to be able to both benchmark (and) promote more about the area, and promote what a great area it is to expand and to invest,” said Dana Kollewehr, director of community and economic development for the Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven-Spring Lake-Ferrysburg.

The report says that the region continues to experience significant sales growth, and compares favorably to the Midwest region on both overall and international sales. The report also notes that 75 percent of Lakeshore-area businesses plan to expand in the next three years, and of those respondents who shared growth estimates, private investment of $258 million and 1,906 new jobs is anticipated.

The report indicates that the region’s employers continue to invest heavily in research and development, with 82 percent of businesses expecting to release new products or services in the next two years.

“We gleaned a lot of information from our manufacturers,” Kollewehr said. “And that's the data that we're sifting through and working with specific to Northwest Ottawa County.”

Kollewehr noted a number of takeaways about the local business climate based on the results of the report.

“What we learned was of the businesses we interviewed, in the next three years we're expecting an additional anticipated investment of $77.6 million from those companies that expect to expand, and then 225 new jobs,” she said. “So that's very exciting, very promising news for our area. And that doesn't necessarily capture all of the investment — it's just a portion of what we learned.”

The information also provides information about the region’s strengths. Kollewehr said those strengths include the overall business climate, the employee work ethic and the area’s quality of life.

The report also highlights some of the barriers to growth that local industry faces — “talent and workforce,” Kollewehr said. This includes both a lack of skilled talent to fill the jobs that are available and a lack of talent to fill jobs that are anticipated but not yet created.

“Some of our companies are holding off on actually making some of their expansions because they're having trouble filling positions,” she said.

The availability of land and facilities is another challenge highlighted in the report.

“That's not just the city, but Northwest Ottawa County, as well,” Kollewehr said of the trend.

She noted that this information isn’t so much of a surprise as it is a reinforcement of some of the comments that’ve been made by local businesses regarding available talent, land and facilities.

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