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The Right Place releases manufacturing economic outlook

Randy Thelen - President and CEO of The Right Place
Courtesy of The Right Place Grand Rapids
Randy Thelen - President and CEO of The Right Place

Today the report was released to business leaders at an event in Grand Rapids.

Economists say manufacturing growth in West Michigan is at a level they’d expect to see if there had been no pandemic, and they have some recommendations to see it continue.

Manufacturing jobs are up 7% from 10 years ago, and 55% of companies surveyed plan to expand. That's according to a new manufacturing report by The Right Place, an economic development organization. The report focuses on key trends like changes in the labor force, housing, education, and inflation.

Recruiting and keeping workers continues to be critical, says Randy Thelen, President and CEO of The Right Place. With people working remotely, they’re more mobile than ever, and now, he says is the time to capture the population growth.

“It might not be there in 10-15 years. If we’re going to be positioned to be a sustained winning market, we have to grow a bit faster.”

Michael Horrigan, President of the Upjohn Institute says in ten years, West Michigan will have less labor available but will need to export more product. Companies have to figure out how to do that.

“That spells automation, it spells training. It’s no longer the high school grad walking into a job. It’s the high school grad with certificate training, industry licenses, an associate degree and also obviously bachelor’s and above.”

Thelen acknowledges West Michigan can do better at extending training for future tech jobs. He says local educational institutions are already preparing to meet that need.

“East Kentwood High School is launching a tech effort, an innovation concept. The Kent ISD is looking to double their career-in-technology ed programs with an emphasis on technology. Grand Valley is opening a College of Computing which is an incredibly bold move.”

Manufacturing is expected to grow in data centers, electric vehicles, the electric grid, and defense spending.

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