World Trade Week highlights drivers of international businesses boosting local jobs, economy


West Michigan World Trade Week has for decades provided a dynamic gathering of local businesses that share the demands of the international markets. From Founders Brewing Co. to Steelcase, these businesses are drivers of the local economy — but given little notice or taken for granted by the broader community. It is a celebration of business growth in the region amounting to more than $9 billion in trade, plus thousands of local jobs by no fewer than 130 local companies. More than 55,730 more jobs throughout the area are supported by these exporters.

World Trade Week organizers announced Gordon Food Service as the World Trader of the Year in West Michigan, joining previous recent winners, including Founders, Steelcase, Meijer, X-Rite and Amway, among others, over the 41 years of the recognition. World traders undoubtedly put West Michigan on the map with their successes, as national and international companies explore new site investments and partners.

Just last week, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation Strategic Fund announced a $350,000 performance-based grant to Performance Fabrics Inc, a German-based leader of personal protective equipment, which entered an equity partnership with Grand Rapids’ HexArmor two years ago. Increased product demand since the partnership resulted in a needed facility expansion at HexArmor, which is investing $8.7 million and creating another 50 jobs. MEDC noted the work of The Right Place in Grand Rapids, as did HexArmor President and CEO Steve VanErmen. The groups indicated Performance Fabrics was reviewing sites around the world.

Meijer Inc. Chairman Hank Meijer will provide the Economic Club of Grand Rapids luncheon remarks May 7. World Affairs Council of West Michigan will feature a luncheon address May 8 by Canada’s Deputy Ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, who has a front-row seat to the D.C. political discussions. Bissell Inc. President and CEO Mark Bissell will provide opening remarks during a reception and recognition dinner May 9.

These businesses are continuing to operate, grow and provide an increasing number of jobs to keep West Michigan on the world business map in a climate of considerable uncertainties. The importance of these businesses to the local economy should not go unnoticed or be taken for granted.

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