2018 has arrived, bringing with it new opportunities for the future. Our region is well-positioned to build on the strong economic growth we experienced in 2017. Most of West Michigan’s industry sectors performed well last year, and are expected to see continued growth and investment. Our region continues to work together, engaging in the issues that will impact and define West Michigan for years to come. 

This strong commitment to collaboration is one of the reasons West Michigan continues to grow and expand. Working together as a larger community has enabled our region to leverage complementary assets from different counties, allowing West Michigan to compete globally. As the regional leader in economic development, we’re committed to capitalizing further on this opportunity to spur economic growth. 

While the future is bright, there are some headwinds that could impact economic growth in our region. The way in which we respond to and address these challenges now will have both short-term and long-term effects on West Michigan. 

One of the top issues for West Michigan the past few years has been the lack of qualified talent, but our region is certainly not alone. Workforce issues are a national problem, affecting communities of all sizes. The regions that solve this issue will find themselves with a distinct advantage. To that end, we are working with our partners at Hello West Michigan on work-ready talent initiatives. Although the solution to this issue will not appear overnight, West Michigan is working together to move our region in the right direction. 

2018 may also bring a larger challenge at the national level. A possible renegotiation of NAFTA. We are the number one state most impacted by NAFTA. Michigan’s manufacturing and agriculture sectors are heavily reliant on global trade and export markets, and West Michigan alone exports $5 billion under NAFTA. Working together, we must communicate the importance of a free and open cross-border trade policy. 

There is also uncertainty remaining within the automotive sector. Many automakers are hinting new vehicle production may slip below 17 million this year, to better match supply to consumer demand. Several trends are driving this change, such as rising interest rates and the increasing average lifespan of cars and trucks. 

Although we face some challenges in 2018, we are optimistic that this year will bring continued growth for West Michigan’s economy. Researchers at the W.E. Upjohn Institute agree; with all indicators pointing towards another successful year. We look forward to our continued work together as we embrace both opportunities and challenges of the future.

Birgit M. Klohs
President & CEO
The Right Place, Inc.