Today, regional economic development organization The Right Place, Inc. hosted its 24th annual Economic Outlook for West Michigan. The virtual event featured a year-in-review presentation by The Right Place, Inc. President and CEO Birgit Klohs as well as an in-depth economic analysis and forecast for West Michigan in 2021 by Jim Robey and the W.E. Upjohn Institute.

2020 Right Place Accomplishments

During her presentation, Klohs highlighted several notable accomplishments from the past year, as well as a The Right Place’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 marked the first year of The Right Place’s new 2020-2022 strategic plan, along with the final full calendar year of Klohs’ tenure as President and CEO of The Right Place.

  • In 2020, the organization’s work resulted in: 953 new and retained jobs, $43M in new and retained payroll, $105.6M in new capital investment, 994 talent assists, and an average hourly wage of $21.60 within its economic development projects.
  • The organization experienced an unprecedented demand for services in 2020, providing over 4,700 business assists to West Michigan companies this year. By comparison the organization usually provides around 2,000 business assists in an average year.
  • Since 1985, The Right Place has worked with companies in the creation of 47,000 new and retained jobs, along with $5.1B in new capital investment.

2021 Outlook Summary from Jim Robey, W.E. Upjohn Institute

  • This year the country experienced a deep recession with a potentially quick recovery. Employment in the US is currently only slightly higher than December 2007 and the COVID-19 Pandemic is impacting the economy more than the Spanish Flu of 1918.
  • However, GDP growth is predicted to remain solid and Moody’s prediction of being in a recession the next 6 month has decreased to 31%. Additionally, national PMI stood at 57.5 in November, indicating the manufacturing sector is expanding.
  • Light Vehicle sales and Class 8 Truck orders have rebounded, although uncertainty remains on if working from home will impact this trend in light vehicles.
  • As of October 2020, the Grand Rapids MSA unemployment rates stands at 3.7%, nearing pre-pandemic levels. The MSA has quickly recovered jobs that were displaced during the COVID-19 recession. In particular, the region’s manufacturing employment has rebounded faster than the state or nation despite taking a large hit during the lockdown.
  • Currently, long term projections for the Grand Rapids MSA indicate the recovery should continue and we are trending towards return to original pre-COVID employment forecasts between 2024 and 2025. The economy is projected to continue growth, but somewhat below pre-COVID forecasted levels.