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West Michigan 2017 economic forecast: Better output, fewer new jobs

The economy in Grand Rapids for 2017 will continue to grow, however new employment will fall short of expectations. That’s the short answer after the 2017 West Michigan economic forecast was announced Tuesday morning.

The 2017 Economic Outlook for West Michigan was held at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in downtown Michigan, as local economic developer The Right Place and the Upjohn Institute hosted the annual event.

The Right Place President and CEO Birgit Klohs began the forecast by speaking first to the growth Grand Rapids has already experienced.

“The Grand Rapids metro region is the sixth fastest growing economy in the country. I think we can be really pleased as to where West Michigan has gone, I mean you feel it,” Klohs said to those in attendance. 

Klohs took time to review the Right Place’s 3-year strategic plan that concluded in 2016. While short in job creation and payroll goals, capital investment in the local economy was nearly double the 3-year goal with $725 million invested. 66 percent of that figure came from innovation and technology investing, however, Klohs stressed that in order to see the local economy continue to grow the area must continue to invest in manufacturing.

“Manufacturing as I already mentioned remains the bedrock of our region,” Klohs said. "We are also fortunate that over the last 30 years we continue to support the manufacturing sector, and that is a great thing that we still make things in West Michigan.”

While the Grand Rapids economy is projected to continue an upwards trend in 2017, Jim Robey said in the official E.W. Upjohn Institute’s financial forecast that new employment will fall short of 2016’s numbers by around 20,000 jobs.

“The forecast going forward is not as rosy from an employment stand point as we might have thought it was, so we are saying your economy is going to grow but it is going to grow more slowly in employment," Robey said.

"But your output is going to increase because of the reasons Birgit talked about and we’ve talked about in other situations,” he said.  

Khlos and Robey both admitted in a Q&A with audience members that they were unsure how Trump’s presidency will ultimately effect the local economy. For that they said, West Michigan must "wait and see."

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