Innovation and RD keep West Michigan in production

November 23, 2009
| By Pete Daly |
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Despite all those Chinese products for sale in America, "manufacturing has been and continues to be a critical and important part of the American economy," according to the head of the regional Manufacturers Council.

"The United States is still the world's largest manufacturing economy. We produce 22 percent of the world's manufactured goods. While we all hear about and see evidence of Chinese products, they still are only half of what we represent, or 13 percent," said Peter Perez.

Perez, the president of Carter Products Co. Inc. in Grand Rapids and the current chairman of the Manufacturers Council based at The Right Place Inc., said the U.S. has about 12 million workers in manufacturing, which is about 10 to 11 percent of the total work force.

West Michigan is unique, he said, because here "it's closer to 23 percent of the work force is in manufacturing. West Michigan is really a leader in what is going on in manufacturing in this country."

"The United States and particularly West Michigan is renowned for innovation and new product development. We hold the bulk of the patents in the world," he said.

Perez said development of new products, particularly in areas such as health care and aerospace, will continue in the U.S. because of the amount of R&D done here, with the support of our strong university system.

China will continue to be a cheaper place for production of high-volume "commodity-like" products, he said, that are distributed worldwide by large multi-national corporations. However, he said he believes that smaller companies that don't have a strong presence in international markets are tending to reconsider the expense and challenges of investing there.

The Manufacturers Council, which is one of the sponsors of the State of Manufacturing meeting at the GVSU Eberhard Center Dec. 2, was organized by The Right Place in 1989.

The Council's strategic initiatives for 2009-2010 include Survival & Growth, Lean & Green, and Partnerships with Area Colleges/Universities/Councils.

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