GR Regional Economy Posts Some Notable Good News

December 20, 2002
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The news this week from Steelcase, Haworth and Herman Miller — especially Herman Miller — is at long last a sigh of relief for this entire region. The leaders of the Big 3 furniture manufacturers have been torture-tested but remain on their respective feet in guiding all three companies to more stable positions in the market. The leadership necessary in the “worst industry downturn in history” is proven, and we relish noting that is without the debacle of “accounting errors” and attendant problems still plaguing other businesses around this country.

While layoffs remain a concern in West Michigan, Grand Rapids Business Journal offers the perspective of New England-based Corporate Properties Ltd. Senior Vice President Anthony Caner, who, from his Chicago offices, told Grand Rapids Business Journal reporter David Czurak last week, “Grand Rapids has had a great run the last couple of years. It’s one of the fastest growing communities in the state. It certainly has a lot of things to offer a manufacturer, including a work force that is temporarily out of work.” CPL is handling the sale or lease of a Steelcase production facility on Eastern Avenue.

Earlier this month Upjohn Institute Senior Regional Analyst George Erickcek noted West Michigan manufacturing has fared better than its comparable markets, which he listed as Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Kansas City, St Louis and Milwaukee. He also emphasized that job growth in West Michigan has been overshadowed by the headlines of loss: “We have a dynamic area of job growth,” he said, adding that industry might otherwise not have continued to stay afloat after the losses. Grand Rapids manufacturers have added 1,100 more jobs, and in other economic news, productivity has increased.

On the eve of the New Year, Erickcek notes that as employment is beginning to rise again, the office furniture industry will benefit: “You need desks and chairs and office furniture; that is good news.”

Leaders of office furniture manufacturing are continuing their vigilance as this year ends, but readers should not lose sight of the gains made in the greater Grand Rapids area. The additional jobs added in this market this year and the expectation of mid-size employers (as reflected in the joint survey by the Business Journal and Plante & Moran in late November) put this region on stable footing for 2003.  

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