Report highlights continued positive West Michigan employer outlook

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Ottawa and Allegan counties have remained economically strong. The region continues to show growth trends rooted in the strength of the vibrant manufacturing industry, according to the 2021 Business Intelligence Report.

Compiled by Lakeshore Advantage, the analysis includes responses from business executives for 120 companies in Allegan, Muskegon, and Ottawa counties in 2021. 
 
“Data drives our work, and this input from employers is crucial in how we support our economic base in West Michigan,” says Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage president. “The 2021 Business Intelligence Report offers insight into how our primary employers have emerged from the COVID-19 crisis and what’s now top of mind for them in this time of recovery.”
 
Business leaders’ responses indicate that 95% of companies reported market share was increasing or stable in 2021, compared to 69% in 2019. In line with the positive trend of growing market share, 83% of employers reported increasing or stable sales in 2021, and 87% reported the anticipation of new products, services, and/or capabilities in the next two years. 

Diversification and growth
 
Highlighted in this report is that diversification has caused many companies in the region to remain strong. For example, 70% of companies interviewed serve more than one industry, with automotive manufacturing, furniture and related product manufacturing, and consumer goods production as the three most common industries of those interviewed. 
 
Growth is another trend for 69% of employers, which indicated they have plans to expand in the next three years, up from 55% in 2020. The Lakeshore Advantage project pipeline has never been fuller, with existing companies looking to expand locally or new companies looking to relocate to the area. 
 
“These anticipated expansion projects look like the small, incremental growth of existing companies that have maxed out their space and need room to grow,” says Amanda Murray, Lakeshore Advantage vice president of business solutions. “We are seeing expansion projects take significantly longer, with costs up about 30% from before the pandemic, so 18 months ahead is not too early to reach out to us. We’ll connect you to resources and partners to help manage your project well.”

Industry 4.0
 
The report also highlights expansion and industry trends to look out for in 2022, such as Industry 4.0, which is a term used to encompass a wide range of technologies that allow businesses to control processes, enable cost savings, and capture data to understand their opportunities and risks more fully. More than 60% of companies have reported they are very or somewhat prepared to implement Industry 4.0 technologies into their processes, with a lack of staff expertise cited as the biggest barrier. 

“Industry 4.0 helps make automation cost-effective, flexible, and accessible to smaller job-shop manufacturers, like Impact Fab,” says Ross Haan, company president and an early adopter of Industry 4.0. “Integrating Industry 4.0 practices helped us increase productivity by over three times from some of our previous manufacturing methods.” 

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

The full 2021 Business Intelligence Report is available at bir.lakeshoreadvantage.com/bir2021.

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.