Business leaders say they have confidence in the economy


The Right Place met 118 business leaders in June who expressed great confidence in the health of their businesses and the economy as they begin the transition to post-pandemic modes of operation.

The meetings aimed to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing businesses in the region while providing insight into the health of the local economy. Overall, businesses in the region report high confidence in the health of their businesses and the economy as a whole, as indicated by increased sales and expansion plans, said The Right Place.

These 118 meetings represent the highest number of monthly visits with area business leaders in the history of The Right Place, a western Michigan-based economic development organization that serves the counties of Kent, Ionia. , Montcalm, Newaygo, Lake and Oceana. The organization regularly meets with nearly 400 companies in the region each year, or about 30 companies per month, mainly companies in the advanced manufacturing, technology, health sciences and food processing sectors.

Eric Icard

“What made this (month) unique was one of the goals was to give everyone at The Right Place the opportunity to see what the business development team is doing,” said Eric Icard, Senior Director of Business Development at The Right Place. “Whether they (they are) facing outward or inward, from the accountant to the administration, all these people have made at least one retention visit. This is how we were able to reach these figures. We did four separate trainings in May – we wanted it to be intimate so people could understand what typically happens on retention visits – and they were better prepared because of it. “

During these meetings, Right Place team members spoke with companies about their plans and the barriers to growth they face. Icard said some of the questions asked by The Right Place included how companies have handled the pandemic now that restrictions are easing; what they see as their opportunities and challenges over the next three years; where do they see their organization in the next one to three years? where do they see sales in the coming years; what are their main problems; and do they perceive any changes in ownership or succession plans in the near future.

He said that based on the concerns and needs shared by respondents, The Right Place was then able to link them with local and statewide resources to help meet those needs, notably by connecting them to West Michigan Works !, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center and local municipalities.

While the details of the one-on-one meetings are confidential, The Right Place has gathered qualitative data in aggregate form to provide insight into regional business sentiment. The main lessons learned from the data collected in June include:

  • Sales increase : Consumers and businesses are starting to spend again, as reported by 80% of businesses reporting increased sales. The rest of the companies posted stable sales, with only one company reporting lower sales.
  • Talent challenges persist: In line with national trends, recruiting talent to open positions remains a persistent challenge in a highly competitive market. Fifty-three percent of the companies surveyed said they had difficulty recruiting and 47% said they had no problems recruiting. In response, 35% of companies are increasing their investments in employee training programs.
  • Companies plan for growth: 60% of companies said they have expansion plans. This growth typically includes an increase in headcount and capital spending, while indicating that business leaders in the region feel confident for the future.

Icard said the responses collected were “consistent with what we have heard throughout 2021.”

“The main issues seem to be the pinch points around talent, both on the recruiting and retention side, and around the supply chain. Certainly, some organizations have understood this, and they do not have these problems. But, generally speaking, it was the aspect of retaining and recruiting talent (that was the main problem).

In some cases, companies have said that even though they plan to expand, they expect to be hampered by the lack of available talent. Icard therefore said that The Right Place has encouraged companies to consider investments in automation and Industry 4.0 and has put many of them in touch with the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, which offers free evaluations that, between others, help companies assess how they could best utilize and train existing lower-level employees to perform advanced work.

Some of the rural business leaders interviewed cited access to broadband and the need to diversify their product portfolios as the main needs, Icard said.

Randy Thelen

Randy Thelen, President and CEO of The Right Place, said he was excited to see how the organization rose to the challenge of meeting more CEOs than ever in a month.

“Our team was eager to leave and reconnect with our customers, which prompted us to set ourselves an ambitious goal of meeting over 100 companies in the region in June,” he said. “Through these meetings with regional business leaders, we have found an optimistic business community that expects strong growth in the second half of 2021.”

Among the companies interviewed:

  • 71% employ less than 100 years
  • 19% employ between 100-500
  • 10% employ more than 1,000

The income ranges of the companies surveyed included:

  • 31% of businesses reported sales between $ 1 million and $ 9 million
  • 36% between $ 10 million and $ 99 million
  • 10% above $ 100 million
  • 4% on $ 1 billion

The companies surveyed represent a global workforce of 754,433 people.

Icard said some of the companies included in the survey are headquartered elsewhere with a presence in western Michigan, and 91% of them said the region is competitive – calling it “good” or “good”. “very good”.

“I think it speaks well for us as we try to market the region,” he said.


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