Economic Development, Lakeshore, and Manufacturing

Investment study places Ottawa on top

SmartAsset ranks county No. 1 in state; Kent County ranks No. 8.

October 28, 2016
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(As seen on WZZM TV 13) A recent study by financial technology firm SmartAsset confirmed something West Michigan residents have known for a long time — companies want to spend their money here.

The study, which ranked counties across the United States by their level of investment activity, listed Ottawa County as the top county in Michigan with an incoming investment index of 37.05. Kent County was the No. 8-ranked county in the state with a 27.31 incoming investment index.

SmartAsset’s incoming investment index took into account four factors: change in number of businesses established over a three-year period; inflation-adjusted GDP growth in the local economy; the number of new building permits issued per 1,000 homes; and municipal bond investments, determined by municipal bond debt raised over the past five years divided by county population.

Ottawa’s reported business growth of 4.8 percent, GDP growth of $682 million, 15.2 new building permits per 1,000 homes and municipal bonds of $6,042 per capita launched it to the top of the list. The county’s index rating of 37.05 was six-and-a-half points higher than Ingham County, the No. 2-ranked county in the state.

Kent County reported business growth of 4.8 percent and GDP growth of $1.82 billion, with 7.4 new building permits per 1,000 homes and $1,760 municipal bonds per capita. Kent County has boasted a Triple-A bond rating from Moody’s for 18 consecutive years.

Jennifer Owens, president of Zeeland-based economic development agency Lakeshore Advantage, said the survey is further proof of Ottawa County’s roaring economy.

“One of the things I liked about this study in particular is that it’s not just about money being spent in the private sector, it’s a combination of private and public investments that drove our high ranking,” she said. “One of the powerhouses of our economy is that we have very strong government leaders that have invested municipal dollars, so that we can continue to have robust economies.”

Owens also cited Ottawa County’s six-year streak of receiving an Aaa bond rating by Moody’s as further evidence of the region’s strong partnership between public and private financing and noted the amount of interplay between the two is quite unique. Ottawa’s municipal bonds per capita are more than twice as high as the national average, which SmartAsset reported are $2,790.

“I’ve worked in different communities throughout the state and never have I seen such collaboration between public and private leaders to invest back into the community,” she said.

Private investments, such as Johnson Controls Inc.’s support for revitalizing downtown Holland, and public investments, such as the Holland Board of Public Works’ construction of the Holland Energy Park, are prime examples of that dynamic, Owens added.

With about 30 percent of the region’s private sector workforce in the manufacturing industry, the economic health of Ottawa County long has been tied to the vibrancy of that industry. And as the county continues to create, build and develop products, West Michigan residents can expect to see a continuance of that growth.

“I certainly feel very proud to see that growth, and I know it’s taken a lot of work to get to this point,” Owens said. “But we can’t rest on our laurels, because there continues to be a number of areas where we can improve. We’re a great investment, but we also have a very strong need to attract talent. So in some ways, this is a challenge for us to maintain this prominence and growth.”

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