Report reveals ‘remarkable’ growth among many employers in Lakeshore region

As concerns about inflation and recession feed fears about the economy, a new report suggests that the Lakeshore’s economic engine remains strong.

In fact, primary employers in Allegan and Ottawa Counties reported experiencing “remarkable” growth in the last year, according to the 2022 Business Intelligence Report, by Lakeshore Advantage.

Of the employers in the Lakeshore region surveyed, 97% reported increased or stable market share of their key products, while 60% of companies interviewed plan to expand in the next three years.
“This feedback and insight of more than 100 senior business leaders is invaluable to ensuring our economic development efforts and initiatives are focused on the real-time needs of our area employers,” says Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage. “In the new year, we will continue to work side by side with our primary employers to help ensure this forecasted growth and remove barriers standing in their way now or in the future.”

High-level executives were interviewed

Lakeshore Advantage and the Grand Haven-Spring Lake-Ferrysburg Chamber of Commerce conducted over 120 interviews of top-level executives at primary employers in Allegan and Ottawa counties. The report features primary research and secondary data to show key points about the economic health of area employers and the region as a place to do business. Along with the report, Lakeshore Advantage presented stories of business growth, growing pains and economic growth opportunities during a webcast on Dec. 15, to an audience of nearly 200 local business leaders.

Some key points from the report reveal the robust economic health of the region. Of the over 120 companies interviewed:
  • 82% plan to introduce new products, services, or capabilities in the next two years.
  • 29% report working added hours of operation/overtime.
  • 99% report company investment in employees.
  • Training is stable or increasing.
  • 61% offer internship, apprenticeship, or co-op opportunities.
Manufacturing still a strength

One of the biggest trends affirmed by the report is that manufacturing is and will continue to be critical to the regional economy, with 30% of all jobs in the two-county region tied to manufacturing. The top industry sectors are furniture and related product manufacturing, fabricated metal product manufacturing, food manufacturing, and computer and electronic product manufacturing.

The top barriers shared by employers include access to talent and supply chain disruptions. Of the companies surveyed, 69% reported recruitment problems, with the majority of responses identifying skilled positions. The top positions needed by employers were in engineering, production, and machinists. This year, 80% of employers reported supply chain disruptions, only half a percentage point difference from 2021. Currently, the largest disruptions are from regional and national suppliers; in 2021, it was primarily international supplier disruptions.

Just 40% of companies that reported supply chain disruptions “indicated they plan to bring outsourced goods and services back in house,” says Amanda Murray, vice president of business solutions at Lakeshore Advantage. “They’re mostly bringing machining, painting, and anodizing back in house. We’re also seeing more vertical integration as companies identify how they can adapt and take more control over their timelines.”

Manufacturing job growth will be 2% higher in the region than the U.S. average, the effect of which is notable considering manufacturing positions’ average earnings were nearly 30% higher than overall average earnings across industries.

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.