Year In Review Part 4

December 27, 2011
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October

Amway celebrated the opening of its newly renovated “state-of-the-art” warehouse in Ada, known as the Midwest Regional Service Center. It is a 214,000-square-foot space within the Amway manufacturing complex, with a new warehouse management system and enough capacity to ship half of all orders placed by Amway independent distributors in the United States.

The Michigan chapter of the International Warehouse Logistics Association unanimously supported Gov. Snyder’s proposal to build the New International Trade Crossing, a second bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. Almost 500 companies in the U.S. and Canada are members of the IWLA, which has represented the third-party logistics and warehouse services industries for more than 100 years. By the end of the year, however, the second bridge proposal looked dead in the water.

One Kent Coalition decided to take a bit of a break in its quest to merge Kent County and the city of Grand Rapids into a new metropolitan government. The coalition said that it doesn’t plan to have its consolidation legislation introduced in Lansing until city and county officials have most of their questions about its proposal answered. The county has come up with 36 questions regarding the coalition’s legislation, and the city has 58.

The DDA threw its support behind Locus Development’s decision to renovate the former Junior Achievement Building, which officials term an “eyesore.” The $4.5 million project includes 16,000 square feet of space for a restaurant and office tenant.

The Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon had the wind taken out of its sails when a court battle resulted in a loss of almost one-third of the funding needed to complete a $3.3 million Lake Michigan wind study over the next two years.

A Holly Jolly Christmas was in store for downtown retailers when it was announced that a project to entice people to do some of their seasonal spending in the district was approved by the DDA and Parking Commission, along with a $12,500 boost. Organizers Tommy Allen and Tina Derusha said in December the event was a rousing success and that they already are planning next year’s celebration.

Michigan’s burgeoning advanced energy storage industry caught the attention of higher education, with a number of schools reporting programs and classes designed to prepare workers for jobs in plants that are already up and running or coming soon to West Michigan.

Cascade Engineering earned national recognition with its status as the area’s first Certified B Corporation, honoring its advocacy for the positive impact businesses can make economically, socially and environmentally.

November

The area’s biggest industrial real estate transaction, engineered by Colliers International-West Michigan, involved three separate manufacturers and absorbed nearly 350,000 square feet of industrial space. “That was a deal that was in the works for quite a while,” said John Kuiper. “It was pretty quiet. But at the end of the day, you end up with a 200,000-square-foot sale, a 46,000-square-foot lease, and a 100,000-square-foot lease.” Lumbermen’s Inc., R.L. Adams Plastics and R.E.D. Stamp were involved.

Sam Cummings, principal and managing partner of CWD Real Estate in Grand Rapids, earned the state’s top commercial real estate award from the University of Michigan/Urban Land Institute for his 20 years of service to the industry.

Two Grand Rapids companies, Atomic Object and Proos Manufacturing, were among 54 Michigan firms selected by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to receive business development support through its Pure Michigan Business Connect Economic Gardening Pilot Program.

Jay Fowler, executive director of the DDA, announced he will leave the post he has held for the past nine years in February. DDA officials immediately announced plans to hire a search firm to find a replacement.

Convention and Arena Authority officials were cautiously optimistic that better days were ahead for Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place after first-quarter financial results indicated that both venues were ahead of last fiscal year’s pace.

Occupy Wall Street made its mark in New York, Michigan and around the country, but an unrelated movement, Bank Transfer Day, had little effect locally. The latter movement, which directed angst and anger toward the fees that some big banks charged, urged customers to switch to credit unions Nov. 5. Some local credit unions reported an uptick in new accounts, but banks claimed it was pretty much business as usual that day.

A longtime tenant of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport took aim at the Kent County Aeronautics Board, charging the panel with violating the airport’s 2004 master plan. If the FAA agrees with the complaint filed by Northern Air and Northern Jet Management, the airport reportedly stands to lose tens of millions of federal dollars.

Kent County residents could be looking at as many as three millage requests in 2012. County officials were considering levies for the parks system, the Purchase of Development Rights program and senior services.

December

A plan from Rockford Berge and L-3 Combat Propulsion Systems could turn Muskegon into a busy port once again. The companies, which are part of the Michigan Wind Energy Consortium, believe Muskegon is perfectly situated to become a wind-farm construction and logistics center.

The Gun Lake Casino made its second revenue-sharing payment to the state and local governments, this time laying out more than $7.8 million. June’s revenue-sharing payment was just over $2.5 million. The money comes from net winnings on electronic gaming devices.

Fred Meijer, local grocery icon and innovator of the national supercenter movement, was laid to rest in Grand Rapids. While the 91-year-old’s business accomplishments were plentiful, Grand Rapids citizens remembered him most for his philanthropic endeavors throughout West Michigan.

The year closed in stark contrast to the way it opened. According to the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors, home sales in the region were up by 3.2 percent through October 2011 compared to the first 10 months of 2010, while sales volume was up 5.9 percent compared to the same period in 2010.

Despite mounting positive evidence, West Michigan apparently can’t resist asking from time to time if it is in full economic recovery. Most recently, George Erickcek, senior regional analyst at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, was asked that question at the 2012 Economic Outlook for West Michigan conference.

His answer? “Not yet.”

Thanks, Dad.

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