Street Talk

Street Talk: Building pipelines remain packed

End of story.

February 15, 2019
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Today’s front page carries a story highlighting $187 million in new private investment coming to Grand Rapids in 2019. But the city isn’t the only place with lofty economic development expectations.

Only a month into the new year, Holland-based general contractor Elzinga & Volkers is slated to execute over $125 million worth of new construction and renovation in 2019, with more than $80 million of these projects being completed in West Michigan.

E&V will be breaking ground on a project for the city of Grand Rapids, including upgrades and expansion of maintenance facilities at the wastewater treatment plant, three projects for the Trinity Health System, a large independent living development for the Keller Lake property of Clark Senior Living and a major repositioning project for a local health system, to be officially announced later in 2019.

“Because of hard work, strong collaboration with our clients and positive working relationships with trade contractors, E&V continues to secure new business at a steady pace,” said Mike Novakoski, president and CEO of Elzinga & Volkers. “We are both humbled and excited by the projects that are currently part of our corporate backlog. We look forward to all of these projects and the continued growth of the organization.”

Nationally, E&V has secured several new projects, as well. Following the success of the Tommy’s Car Wash locations in Holland, Jenison and Grandville, E&V was hired by several Tommy’s franchisees to build out-of-state projects. Current contracts are in place for locations in Colorado and California, with others anticipated in Texas and Washington.

In addition, an up-and-coming, undisclosed nationwide retailer with operations in 12 states has contracted E&V for a multistate construction program. E&V currently holds 11 contracts with the company for approximately $15 million worth of construction over the next four months with more planned for late 2019 and early 2020.

Fresh starters

If you’ve got high hopes for your business, Michigan might be the right place for you.

The business and economy website DollarSprout recently ranked Michigan as the second-best state for entrepreneurship in the U.S., weighing factors such as cost, opportunity and viability.

The ranking, called “The Best States for Entrepreneurs & Small Businesses in the U.S.,” was released Feb. 7.

“Every year, more people in the U.S. quit their day jobs and try on their entrepreneurial hats, coming up with innovative ideas and following their dreams,” said Katy Flatt, outreach coordinator at DollarSprout.

“At DollarSprout, we wanted to find the best locations for starting these small businesses.”

To create the ranking, DollarSprout looked at 11 factors from a mix of government and private sector reports, including filing fees, median employee wage, 10-year business survival rates and state economic growth trends.

Each state received a weighted average score to determine its ranking.

Michigan was said to have “a near-perfect combination of solid infrastructure coupled with resurgent energy and favorable low-cost economic conditions,” according to DollarSprout.

It also has “a well-educated workforce, low business formation fees and strong statewide economic growth at 5.4 percent.” Also, more than one-third of its businesses make it to the 10-year mark, and the state’s cost of living is low, even in Detroit.

Top 10

1. Texas, based on low unemployment, high growth rate

2. Michigan, low business formation fees, high growth and business survival rates

3. Louisiana, low labor costs, steady growth rate

4. North Dakota, highest 10-year survival rate, low unemployment

5. Alaska, highest average annual income levels for sole proprietorships

6. Minnesota, low filing fees, low unemployment, high business survival rate

7. Massachusetts, well-educated workforce, high business survival rate

8. Missouri, low filing fees, strong economic growth, low cost of living

9. Kansas, high economic growth, low cost of living

10. Montana, high economic growth rate, high 10-year survival rate

Death knell

Last year saw the highest number of media job cuts since 2009.

In 2018, media companies, which include those related to movies, television, publishing, music, and broadcast and print news, announced plans to cut 15,474 jobs, 11,878 of which were from news organizations, according to data compiled by Chicago-based global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

That's 281 percent higher than the 4,062 cuts announced in the media sector in 2017.

In 2009, media organizations announced plans to cut 22,346 jobs.

The firm cited some media hardships in 2018: consolidation, declining revenue, combative language from the Trump administration and occasional violence.

"Members of the media, especially journalists, have had a tough few years,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “Many jobs were already in jeopardy due to a business model that tried to meet consumer demand for free news with ad revenue. As media outlets attempted to put news behind paywalls, in many markets, consumers opted not to pay.”

He added: "The result is a loss of great journalists, leading to more work for the few that remain.”

This year is off to a rough start for media organizations, as well. In January 2019, 1,279 media sector job cuts were announced, up 49.6 percent from the 855 announced cuts in the same month last year.

Gannett and McClatchy, which own hundreds of local papers, announced several rounds of cuts last year. BuzzFeed garnered attention after announcing about 200 layoffs in January. Verizon announced 800 cuts in its media division, which includes Yahoo, AOL and HuffPost properties.

In BuzzFeed's case, CEO Jonah Peretti cited the need to build a sustainable company with a firm foundation. In response, on Jan. 12, BuzzFeed journalists announced their intention to unionize with the NewsGuild of New York.

Among several issues, Challenger said tech giants are “certainly part of the problem,” especially in terms of advertising revenue. According to Bloomberg, Facebook and Google combined make up about 58 percent of the digital advertising market, and Amazon is looking to improve on its 4.2 percent share. This leaves less than half of the market open for a large number of media companies that rely on ad revenue to survive.

The firm said media companies also are at a disadvantage when it comes to tailored ads and ad-blocking extensions, which allow consumers to view content, yet avoid the ads that make media companies money. The blockers often do not work on Facebook or Google, though, which keeps their revenue streams flowing while others struggle to circumvent this technology.

“Job cuts and consolidations are likely to continue until these companies are able to find ways to create growth in revenue streams,” Challenger said.

“Meanwhile, more news organizations may move to a subscription-based revenue model. The trick there is convincing consumers of the importance and value of real, unbiased and uninfluenced news.”

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