GR’s struggles aside, region continues to show growth potential
The Business Journal report on Colliers International West Michigan quarterly occupancy rates shows strength — and growth — across all sectors: retail, office and industrial; and given announced plans, the trend is likely to continue through the fourth quarter and into 2018. It is far more than a measure of marking what has come to pass, it is more a measure of the Grand Rapids area’s future potential.
Colliers’ senior research analyst Jeff Hainer remarked to the Business Journal, “We’re excited at some of the conversations that we’ve been having, and that some organizations are deciding between, like, Texas and Grand Rapids. Ten to 15 years ago, Grand Rapids wouldn’t have had a chance at being considered.” In that time, it would have been unlikely, too, that the regional economic development agency, The Right Place, would have considered bidding to compete for Amazon’s HQ2.
This is not to say the region is without struggle, particularly with affordable housing, wage growth and educational attainment. The Business Journal has opined in previous editorials in those regards.
In the month that begins the annual holiday shopping frenzy, it is important to note the increase in smaller and more locally owned businesses. The Colliers analysis shows even as big box stores announce closings, “These vacancies quickly are being filled, as several locally owned small businesses move into larger locations.” The report also emphasizes that despite the growth in online retail, brick and mortar remains strong throughout West Michigan.
Earlier this month, the Business Journal reported on the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, which solidly forecast sales increases over 2016. MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan emphasized the survey showed “60 percent of Michigan retailers expect an increase in sales over last year.” In fact, the August and especially September retail reports showed 54 percent had increases over the same period last year.
Those expectations also are apparent at area shopping centers. Woodland in October held a job fair to fill more than 300 positions in preparation for the holiday season. Woodland’s Lyndsey Hicks told the Business Journal, “We’re expecting a busy holiday season and are in need of great service-oriented employees to fill these positions.”
Michigan’s unemployment report may offer some hope to fill those vacancies. While the rate climbed slightly, to 4.3 percent, the Associated Press noted the size of the workforce increased for the first time since April as a relatively large number of people entered the labor market, but many did not immediately find work.
The Business Journal finds glad tiding for the new year in these analyses as the fourth quarter draws nigh.