News of a combined $25-million investment by a pair of manufacturers in Jamestown Township has the area southwest of Grand Rapids humming.
Royal Technologies and MFP Automation Engineering both are expanding their operations in the community, and executives from both firms used the term “home” to describe part of the decision-making process.
The industrial expansions are a nice fit for the region that is gearing up as the connection between Grand Rapids and the lakeshore.
Michelle Fare, executive director of the Hudsonville Chamber of Commerce, said the city of Hudsonville's Imagine Hudsonville 2030 plan currently underway “calls for us creating a community that’s more vibrant, more livable, more connected and more distinctive,” and the chamber is focused on supporting business growth and is actively working on partnering with Jamestown Township, about 10 minutes south of Hudsonville, to support its goals for placemaking.
Some of those placemaking efforts already are underway. The Business Journal reported in February a $4.5-million, mixed-use, four-story “high rise” called the Hudson Center was completed in downtown Hudsonville. It includes upper-level residential, business offices and three floors of retail, including ground floor tenants Wing Doozy restaurant, Dorados Mexican Grill and Bar, 317 Coffee and Lou + Marie women’s clothing boutique.
The chamber is addressing the “vibrant spaces” piece as well, Fare said.
“We launched a placemaking initiative last year where the businesses, when their membership dues come up, they can round up their membership and contribute to the placemaking fund, and they can also adopt public art. … So, there are two murals that will be going up downtown.”
Fare said most of the big employers in the area have a target employee base that will love the rural nature and affordable home values of Jamestown Township but still identify as also being part of Hudsonville.
“I think the manufacturers do see the value in the efforts that are being done in downtown (Hudsonville) both by the city and the chamber. The city has been really driving most of the efforts of redevelopment, then the chamber has just been partnering where we can find the niches that we can support,” Fare said.
She added Jamestown Township has been “a really incredible partner for all of these large manufacturers.”
“A big chunk of our labor force is in the township, just to the south of the city of Hudsonville, and Jamestown Township has been phenomenal, especially being a smaller-staffed township. They’ve really stepped up and made sure that they were welcoming for these kinds of expansions, which is super critical for our region,” she said.
In 2018, Meijer’s Simply Give program set a record with donations of more than $8.5 million — the equivalent of 4.5 million gallons of milk — to Midwestern food pantries.
In further appreciation, the retailer is providing an additional one-time gift of more than $2 million to its food pantry partners, according to Executive Chairman Hank Meijer.
“My dad once said, ‘I want to leave the world in a little better shape than when I entered it,’” Meijer said. “We believe he achieved that dream but also that it lives on through the Simply Give program that feeds hungry families in the communities we serve — with help from our generous customers, team members and food pantry partners.”
The one-time, $2-million gift will bring the program’s overall donation to nearly $48 million since its inception in 2008. The donation will be divided equally among the more than 400 food pantries participating in the program, resulting in an additional $5,000 per food pantry.
Meijer’s most recent campaign — held during the holiday season — raised more than $2.8 million, which equals more than 1.6 million cartons of eggs.
“Recently, it has become clearer just how vital food pantries are to an increasing number of families across the Midwest, and why programs like Simply Give continue to make a difference in the communities we serve,” Meijer President and CEO Rick Keyes said. “Our company has a heritage of giving, and that philosophy guides us today.”
During each campaign, customers are encouraged to purchase a $10 Simply Give donation card upon checkout. Once purchased, the donation is converted into a Meijer food-only gift card and donated directly to the local food pantry selected by the store for that campaign.
With the end of the school year fast approaching, many teenagers across the country are considering summer employment.
While just 35% of teens aged 16-19 participated in the labor market last year, global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas predicts job opportunities could increase around 5% this year, and the teen participation rate could rise as well, according to its annual outlook released last month.
Last summer saw 1,388,000 jobs gained by teens, 7.8% higher than the 1,288,000 jobs gained by teenagers in the summer of 2017. This was the highest number of teen jobs gained since 2012 when 1,397,000 jobs were added.
“Teens have not participated in the job market at the same rate they did since their peak work years in the 1970s. In fact, teen participation has dropped since the recovery in 2009, when 37.5% of teens were in the labor force,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president, Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
While the teen participation rate hovers near 35%, the sheer number of opportunities, as well as student desire to gain employment experience, may bring more teens back into the labor force.
“Employers value work experience, in some cases, more than education. The summer job for teens is incredibly valuable in showing future employers they are able to work in a professional setting,” Challenger said.
While the traditional retail job might be harder to get for many teens, as thousands of brick-and-mortar store closures have occurred over the last few years, the stronger-than-expected March jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated a 33% increase in opportunities in leisure and hospitality companies. For instance, the BLS report found food services and drinking places added 27,000 jobs in March.
“Companies in almost all sectors are struggling to find talent. While adults took the place of many teens during the recession and recovery years, we’re now seeing those opportunities going back to teen workers,” Challenger said.
In addition, more teens might choose to work between high school and college as they decide what field they want to pursue. The so-called “gap year” is becoming increasingly popular, especially with the high cost of postsecondary education.
According to the American Gap Association, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 teens take a gap year after high school, and that number was an increase of 20% from 2015. Former President Barack Obama's daughter, Malia Obama, brought attention to the growing trend with her decision to suspend college for a year in 2017.
“Teens who want to find work for the summer would be wise to start readying their résumés and applications now,” Challenger said. “(They) should reach out to their networks — friends, parents, instructors, coaches and friends’ parents — to inquire about potential opportunities. They should also seek out the managers of places they frequent to see if they are hiring.”