December 7th, 2023

2024 Economic Outlook for Greater Grand Rapids Shared at The Right Place’s Annual Event

Today, regional economic development organization The Right Place, Inc. hosted its 2024 Economic Outlook for the Greater Grand Rapids Region.

West Michigan Greater Grand Rapids Event Recaps

Today, regional economic development organization The Right Place, Inc. hosted its 2024 Economic Outlook for the Greater Grand Rapids Region. The event featured a state of the region presentation by The Right Place, Inc. President and CEO Randy Thelen and in-depth state and national forecasts by Iryna Lendel, Director, W.E. Upjohn Institute and Michael Horrigan, President, W.E. Upjohn Institute.

2023 Right Place Accomplishments
The Right Place’s Randy Thelen provided an update on first year progress against the 3-year strategic plan goals (2023-2025). Click here to read the full strategic plan. In 2023, the organization’s work has resulted in:

    • 1,393 new and retained jobs against a 3-year goal of 4,000 new and retained jobs.
    • $25.02 average hourly wage against a 3-year goal of $26.50 average wage.*
    • $453m in new capital investment against a 3-year goal of $550m.
    • $112.9m in community development against a 3-year goal of $100m.
    • Hosting more than 13,000 Tech Week attendees.
    • Facilitating 22 business expansion projects.
    • Administering $17.8m in grant awards for the region.
    • Coordinating 600 business retention visits.
    • Passed milestone of generating over 50,000 since founding in 1985.

(*This wage goal refers to the hourly rate of jobs created/retained within projects The Right Place directly works on in its 8-county coverage region.)

During his presentation, Thelen also noted that Right Place staff coordinated 600 business retention visits. These meetings provided staff the opportunity to learn more about existing businesses and engage in dialogue to help ensure the business can prosper in the region. The Right Place is often known for helping recruit businesses to the region, but as the figure shows, most of its work is helping existing businesses.

Although known for recruiting business, the majority focus of the organization’s work is to grow local business first, and then recruit companies that complement the region’s existing business base.

Also, during his remarks, Thelen noted how The Right Place has assisted with the creation of more than 50,000 jobs since its founding in 1985, which equates to one in ten jobs across the region being directly connected to Right Place’s work. Those job metrics represent tens of thousands of families whose quality of life is improved by the pride and income that comes from a good job.

State of the Region Report

After highlighting Right Place accomplishments, Thelen then walked the 600-person capacity crowd through its second annual State of the Region report. This report is designed to inform the community of key trends impacting the region. It is the result of qualitative insights from The Right Place’s economic development work across its 8-county collaborative, and quantitative economic research performed by its Business Intelligence team. Key 2023 statistics from The Right Place’s State of the Region report, include:


  • 7.8% population growth over the last decade. Over 1.1m in 2023.
  • More than 38,500 tech sector workers.
  • 23% of region’s population comprised of diverse communities.
  • 35.5% have bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Higher concentration of young people as share of the population compared to nation.


  • 3.2% industrial vacancy rate.
  • 3.5% increase in residential building permits since Q3 2022.
  • Region’s cost of living is 10% below national average.
  • 11% increase in air travel


  • 606,000 regional labor force with 4% increase from 2022 to 2023.
  • 59.5% if companies are planning expansions, up 3.5 points from 2022.
  • 68.4% of companies report increasing sales, down 1.3 points from 2022.
  • 51.3% of companies plan to increase hiring, up 1.3 points from 2022.

In summarizing the State of the Region report, Thelen noted that, overall, business leaders in the region have found many reasons to remain optimistic. Most companies are planning for near-term expansions and experiencing increasing sales. The region has accelerated beyond pre-pandemic job levels and is experiencing job growth across many key industries. And, in general, the region continues to maintain affordable cost of living compared to national averages.

“The region continues to outperform state and national averages on many key economic indicators,” said Thelen. “Notably, we are a population growth center that continues to outpace both the state and nation when it comes to attracting and retaining the next generation at a time when communities across the country are seeing a declining youth population.”

View the 2023 State of the Region Report

This report is designed to give you an in-depth look at the key economic trends in Greater Grand Rapids.

Read the full report

State Level Outlook

Following Thelen’s presentation, Iryna Lendel, director at the W.E. Upjohn Institute in Kalamazoo, provided the Institute’s 2024 forecast for Michigan. Key takeaways for 2024 include:

  • Statewide overall employment to grow at .91% compared to 1.51% in 2023.
  • Manufacturing sector employment to grow at .92% compared to .41% in 2023.
  • Unemployment rate is expected to be at 4.2% compared to 3.7% in 2023.
  • Consumer Price Index (inflation) is expected to be 3.8% compared to 5.9% in 2023.

National Level Outlook

And, wrapping up the projection presentations was Michael Horrigan, president of W.E. Upjohn Institute, who offered a look at the national level forecast for 2024. Key takeaways for 2024 include:

  • Real Gross Domestic Product growth has returned to pre-pandemic rates.
  • Payroll employment has recovered to pre-pandemic levels. 2023 employment was 152.6m, forecast for 2024 is 157.9m.
  • Labor force participation rates and employment population ratios are nearly recovered from the pandemic.
  • Light vehicle sales expected to be 16m in 2024, compared to 15.5m in 2023.
  • Unemployment rate expected to be 4.1% in 2024, compared to 3.7% in 2023.
  • Consumer Price Index (inflation) is expected to be 3.2% compared to 4.2% in 2023.
  • Demographics will create long-term labor shortages in the U.S.