Hundreds of new jobs sparked by incentives

September 27, 2008
| By Pete Daly |
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Tax incentives from the state and local governments have induced five companies to expand or locate in West Michigan, including Genesis Seating, which will move into the vacant Yamaha musical instruments plant in Kentwood, and Bissell Homecare, which is expanding here rather than in China.

According to The Right Place, more than $37 million in investments will create and retain a combined total of 940 jobs over the next 10 years.

Genesis Seating, which is one of three Leggett & Platt subsidiaries expanding in West Michigan, will be creating about 130 new jobs at the vacant Yamaha plant.

"We are expecting some softening (in the economy) but there is definitely growth in new product development, so we're pretty positive about the future at this point," said Jeff Agar, vice president and general manager of Genesis Seating.

Two other Leggett & Platt companies, Davidson Plyforms Inc. on 33rd St. SE and Grand River Polishing Corp. in Spring Lake, also are expanding.

So is Bissell, which is bringing 106 new jobs to Walker to staff its planned Innovation Center.

A new company in West Michigan is San Diego-based Sequenom Inc., a prenatal diagnostics and bio-med research company that is purchasing lab space in Grand Rapids for research and intends to build more lab space here in the next few years, if its business growth meets its plans.

Bissell is going to build an Innovation Center to house its technical and marketing departments, making room for 106 new jobs over the next five years. The project will convert onsite factory space to offices in order to centralize Bissell R&D.

A MEGA tax credit and a city of Walker tax abatement were key to the Bissell decision to expand here rather than possible sites in China, according to The Right Place. Expansion here saved 79 existing full-time positions.

“As a result of BISSELL’s rapid growth over the past several years, we want to increase the investment in the front end of our business in order to continue developing consumer-based, innovative products. This state and local government grant will allow our West Michigan headquarters to remain as our primary location for research, development, technology and industrial design,” says Mark Bissell, chairman and CEO.

Construction on the $9.35 million project is scheduled to begin in October, with completion planned by January 2010.

Leggett & Platt is a $4 billion, publicly held Fortune 500 company in Missouri that owns Davidson Plyforms Inc. and Genesis Seating, and recently bought Grand River Polishing Corp. in Spring Lake.

Davidson Plyforms and Genesis Seating had been sharing space at 5505 33rd St. SE. but now only Davidson Plyforms will be in the space and will expand its capacity in space vacated by Genesis.

The Genesis move to the former Yamaha plant at 3445 East Paris Ave. SE in Kentwood represents a capital investment of $3 million that will create 131 new jobs. The increased capacity at Davidson Plyforms reflects a capital investment of $5.6 million that will create 45 new jobs. Grand River Polishing Corp. is planning a $620,000 investment in its plant improvements, creating 57 new jobs. Leggett & Platt had been considering sites in Indiana for the expansions but The Right Place worked with the municipalities involved and the MEDC to offer a state tax credit valued at $2 million over 11 years, plus anticipated local tax abatements, to keep the three subsidiaries in West Michigan.

Genesis was founded in 1994 by John Walton, then also the owner of Davidson Plyforms. Genesis makes both office and residential furniture under contract to the major office furniture manufacturers, with products made of wood and aluminum.

"It tends to be much more high-end furniture. There are lots of crafts people working here," said Agar.

Genesis, which has about 90 employees now, plans to add the new jobs over the life of the tax abatement, according to Agar.

While BIFMA is reportedly seeing a softening in the market, "our business segment tends to be the higher end of the business and it has not historically slowed down as much as office furniture itself," said Agar. However, among their biggest customers are financial institutions and with the current problems in that part of the national business sector, Agar said they expect some softening in their market.

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