The Right Place shares economic snapshot

West Michigan business leaders report strong confidence in local economy in biannual report.
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From left are Brent Case, vice president of business attraction; Eric Icard, senior director of business development; Olivia Lanctot, business development coordinator; and Rafael Martinez, business intelligence and research manager. Courtesy The Right Place

West Michigan business leaders are reporting strong confidence in the health of their companies and the economy at large, according to a biannual survey by The Right Place.

The regional economic development agency — which primarily serves businesses in the advanced manufacturing, technology and health sciences industries in Kent, Ionia, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo, Lake and Oceana counties — on April 21 shared the results of its spring survey of local companies regarding the economy.

Over the course of a year, The Right Place typically meets with more than 400 local companies. However, the economic development organization recently began intensifying its outreach by committing to meet with at least 100 companies in March and October 2022. 

The meetings are designed so The Right Place team members can talk with companies about their plans and any barriers to growth they might be facing. While the details of individual meetings are confidential, The Right Place gathers qualitative data in aggregate form to provide a snapshot of regional business sentiment. 

“In March, our team met with the leaders of 138 area companies, which is the highest number of business visits ever recorded by The Right Place in a single month,” said Randy Thelen, president and CEO of The Right Place. 

“Through these meetings, we were able to provide customized business assistance while gaining valuable insights on the health of our local economy. Overall, we see an optimistic business community planning for continued growth through 2022.”

Key findings are as follows:

Companies projecting growth

Most companies (57%) reported they have plans to expand. This growth typically includes increased headcounts or capital expenditures and is an indication area business leaders are feeling confident in the future. Specifically, 46% of companies indicated they plan to increase their rate of hiring.

Increasing sales

With pandemic restrictions subsiding, consumers continue to spend more, slowing only slightly since the last snapshot report in June 2021. Most area companies (73%) are reporting increasing sales. Of the remaining companies, 23% reported stable sales, and only 4% reported a decrease in sales.

Talent challenge shifting

Recruiting talent for open positions remains a persistent challenge, with 48% reporting difficulties. However, this is down slightly from last June, when 53% reported difficulties. Instead, 52% of companies reported no recruitment issues in March.

Employee training investments

In response to recruitment challenges, 39% of employers are reporting increased investment in training for their existing workforce, with the goal of raising retention rates.

Of the businesses surveyed, the majority employ less than 100 people with annual revenues between $1 million and $99 million. The businesses surveyed represent a global workforce of 656,534 people. Specifically, 76% employ less than 100, 20% employ between 100 and 500, and 4% employ more than 500. 

The revenue ranges included 26% of companies between $1 million and $9.9 million in sales, 31% between $10 million and $99.9 million, 9% over $100 million and 1% over $1 billion.

More information is at rightplace.org.

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