Economists expect modest growth in Grand Rapids area will continue

Jan 18, 2012

The Grand Rapids area economy will continue to grow at a modest pace in 2012. Economists at Grand Valley State University are predicting employment growth between 1.5 and 2-percent this year.

GVSU Professor of Economics Hari Singh surveyed close to 300 business owners in Allegan, Ottawa, Kent and Muskegon counties to compile his report. He says 70-percent of employers told him they plan to hire permanent employees this year.

“The bright spot is really exports,” Singh said. “Our respondents say that our exports are going to go up around 7-percent in spite of the slowing markets in Asia; China and India are supposed to slow down, but exports are still relatively robust.”

Singh also expects growth in advanced manufacturing, health care and professional services. But he says it’s still a challenge for employers to find workers with the right skills they’re looking for. View his full report here.

Meanwhile, the commercial real estate market is improving in West Michigan according to a report released at the same event by Colliers International. Manufacturers are leading the recovery in the commercial real estate market in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Holland.

Derrick Hunderman is a managing partner at Colliers in West Michigan. He says good industrial spaces in the region are getting harder to find. “The trophy properties really have been filled and now there’s some train wrecks. And you’ve got to be willing to deal with getting that facility up to par and people don’t always factor that into it,” Hunderman said.

Hunderman suspects business owners looking for industrial space will get creative with what they have rather than build new.

The report also shows the glut of office space, especially in downtown areas is quickly disappearing. But there’s still plenty of retail space available.