West Michigan economy shows slow growth

- Grand Rapids Art Museum, Downtown Grand Rapids, MI.

GVL/Archive – Grand Rapids Art Museum, Downtown Grand Rapids, MI.

Allison Ribick

West Michigan’s economy appears to be slowly growing and has certain industries thriving, which offers prospective opportunities to Grand Valley State University students.

Brian Long, director of supply management research in the Seidman College of Business at GVSU, surveyed local business leaders during the end of February about their prices, production, inventories of finished and raw materials and activity in purchasing offices, among other things.

“Over time, this data collected together constitutes a very good temperature of the health of the industrial economy in West Michigan,” Long said.

According to the Institute of Supply Management survey, the level of business improvement remained at the same level of the past two months at +13, as well as the employment index at +19. The production index increased from +13 to +18 and the index of purchases decreased slightly from +17 to +16.

Long has completed this survey over the past 36 years and has gotten feedback from business leaders saying how they value the data he collects.

Long noted that the automotive and office furniture industries were prosperous in West Michigan, and aerospace companies’ business is also good since aircraft companies are thriving.

“Right now, we have plenty of momentum to carry us into the summer,” Long said. “Our problems are the world economy, because the rest of the world could draw us into a recession even though things were otherwise good as far as the United States is concerned.”

Long pointed out Europe and China as sources that could potentially affect the economy.

For GVSU students, this information regarding a slow growing economy means that students should be mindful of growing industries and job prospects in their respective fields.

“All of those so called STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) areas are the hot areas as far as placement is concerned, and that will probably continue to be for some time,” Long said.

Breeann Gorham, associate director of GVSU’s Career Center, urged students to seek out the help of the Career Center to learn of thriving industries like manufacturing, automotive, business services like accounting and IT, hospitality and tourism and customer service. Deciding on a major and finding early job experience through internships and job shadowing will then become easier.

Good communication, team work, problem solving, critical thinking, technical and knowledge of enterprise resource planning – ERP and SAP systems – are some of the skill sets employers are seeking, Gorham said.

“They want to see that that experience has been had outside the classroom, so that’s why internships are so important,” Gorham said.

For students who are about to graduate, they need to be active in their job search.

“(Students should) go beyond just looking on the Internet for job postings,” Gorham said. “They need to go to events that are on campus where employers are recruiting. It’s important that they’re engaged and that they’re networking and meeting employers.”

The Career Center offers many events to aid students in their job search, which can be found on its website at 

The International Business Career Expo, for example, is taking place on March 31 at the L. William Seidman Center in Loosemore Forum B from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. This is an opportunity for students to learn about the international business world by interacting with employers to learn about their businesses and possible job opportunities.

“We have a lot of global headquarters in West Michigan, so international business is a good area to look for career opportunities,” Gorham said.

To read Long’s report, visit

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