Lakeshore Advantage builds on 2021 successes as it sets course for 2022

As Lakeshore Advantage moves forward in 2022, the economic development organization that assists employers with growth opportunities in Ottawa and Allegan counties is building on the success of its 2021 projects and achievements. 

The nonprofit organization supported 21 expansion projects in 2021, creating 694 new jobs. Those projects added up to $259 million in private investment between Ottawa and Allegan counties for the year. 
“What this data shows is the resilience of our communities,” says Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage president. “Even amid uncertainty and change, our employers grew and flourished in our vibrant economy, and that is worth celebrating. We applaud all the companies that were able to expand in the past year and are pleased to be an extended member of their team to support their growth.”
Expanding locally

The largest expansion project Lakeshore supported in 2021 was at Request Foods, which includes a $205 million investment that will create up to 198 jobs in Holland Township. This major expansion will allow additional capacity for the production of frozen prepared entrees, side dishes, and specialty food items. 
“Request Foods is excited to continue our history of successful growth in West Michigan by investing over $200 million over the next few years, in four major projects in Holland Township,” says Request Foods Chief Financial Officer Menaka Abel. “Our investment is expected to create up to 198 new jobs, with most of our new team members residing in Ottawa County (Holland Township). While we received enticing offers to expand in other states, our commitment to Michigan, coupled with our desire to ensure Holland is recognized as an area of choice to live and work, precipitated our decision to expand locally. We are grateful for the cooperation we have received from Holland Township, Ottawa County, and the state of Michigan officials — along with the support we have received from Lakeshore Advantage and our partners at Warner Norcross + Judd — which enabled us to bring our expansion plans to fruition.”

A ‘vibrant and dynamic marketplace’
Another key expansion project supported by the nonprofit was Harbor Steel’s new operations in Holland Township, investing nearly $2.5 million in land and building improvements. This company’s growth will help to ensure the region’s manufacturers have the steel components needed to manufacture products.   
“The Holland community has been a home to Harbor Steel since 1986. The humble beginnings of a startup operation to our fifth expansion are a testament to this vibrant and dynamic marketplace,” says Stephen B. Heneveld, chief operating officer at Harbor Steel & Supply. “The business-friendly environment and the dedicated workforce have been vital to our success and longevity. Our team is genuinely excited for the future and this new chapter in our West Michigan story.”

Key achievements

Other key 2021 achievements for Lakeshore Advantage include: 
  • More than $61.6 million in additional funding from local, state, and federal partner organizations to support 271 employers.
  • Distributed $1.8 million in grants to small businesses.
  • Engaged in a regional Industry 4.0 awareness campaign that will continue in 2022. 
  • Assisted 62 startup companies and helped them raise $16.6 million in investment support. 
“Our team and region have much to celebrate over the past challenging year. These successes would not be possible without the collaboration of our public, private, and education partners,” says Owens. “We will need that partnership even more in the new year as we set the course for what is sure to be a revolutionary year ahead.”  
As Lakeshore Advantage looks forward to ensuring long-term economic success, its three-year picture includes having West Michigan known and recognized as an Industry 4.0 leader, an innovation center for the startup community, and an increase in diverse and emerging workforce with strides forward in affordability and accessibility of higher education. 


Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.