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Muskegon, Newaygo county unemployment rates lowest since 2001

Stephen Kloosterman | 
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 </script>By Stephen Kloosterman | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
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on December 14, 2014 at 10:31 AM, updated December 14, 2014 at 10:32 AM

LANSING, MI – The last time unemployment was this low, a gallon of gas cost $1.50, and Britney Spears and 'N Sync were burning up the radio waves.

The latest batch of unemployment numbers from Michigan's Bureau of Labor Market Information & Strategic Initiatives shows the Muskegon County unemployment rate hit 5.5 percent in October 2014. According to the state's database, that's the lowest it was since October 2001, when the jobless rate touched 5.4 percent.

While the rate itself might be influenced by holiday-season hiring, it's a milestone of improvement for the local economy.

"The rate is as low as it's been in some time," said Muskegon Area First President Ed Garner. "It really does speak volumes that our economy is back on track."

October's unemployment rate of 5.5 percent is down half a percentage point from 6.1 percent in September and 8.6 percent 12 months ago, in October 2013.

Not adjusted for seasonal fluctuations, Muskegon County's jobless rate of 5.5 percent is dead even with the nationally non-adjusted rate of 5.5 percent, and significantly below a statewide rate of 6.4 percent.

Among Muskegon's 83,700 workforce, 79,100 are employed and 4,600 are jobless while actively seeking employment.

"More people are finding employment opportunities," Garner said. Like other economic developers, in Michigan, he worries about a shortage of skilled labor needed by firms.

The bureau keeps record of jobs data for the Muskegon-Norton Shores statistical area, which encompasses Muskegon County. Local jobless rates come from surveys of households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and don't reflect the percentage of people applying for jobless benefits.

Newaygo County

October 2014 was similarly favorable for Newaygo County, where unemployment bottomed out at 5 percent – again, the lowest for 13 years. In October 2001, the rate was 4.7 percent.

"I don't know exactly when the recession ended," said Andy Lofgren, Executive Director of the Newaygo County Economic Development Office. But he remembers 2010 was a low point, with 12.5 percent unemployment.

"Now we're four years into this recovery, and we're starting to see its effects on the labor market," Lofgren said.

Lofgren gave credit to Newaygo County businesses for sticking with the community through the recession. Over the last 14 years, businesses have invested more than $308 million in the local economy by way of improvements to plants and equipment, he said.

The county's industrial powerhouses are Magna Mirrors in Newaygo and the Nestle-owned Gerber Products in Fremont, Lofgren said. The 2008 tax exemption creating an Agricultural Processing Renaissance Zone for Gerber helped the company stay in the area, he said.

Oceana County

In Oceana County, the October 2014 labor rate was 6.2 percent, the lowest it's been since 6 percent in 2006, according to state data.


Muskegon-area butcher's ranked among nation's best

By Lynn Moore | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
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on July 15, 2014 at 8:14 AM, updated July 15, 2014 at 8:50 AM

EGELSTON TOWNSHIP, MI -- Bacon or sausage? It's that old breakfast conundrum that John Drummond just may have found an answer for.

Michigan's bacon king has invented bacon sausage, which is just one of his wildly popular specialties.

"I can't keep it in my case," said Drummond, owner of John Drummond's Butcher Shop in Egelston Township. "It's like having bacon and sausage at the same time."

Other Drummond specialties such as asparagus cheddar brats, bacon cheese brats, jerky dip and beef sticks have won over loyal customers at his shop on Apple Avenue west of Maple Island Road. He's also a regular at the Muskegon Farmer's Market on Saturdays and the Grand Haven farmer's market on Wednesdays, saving meat lovers from having to make the trip to Egelston.

But it's his bacon that has put Drummond on the map. Bacon Scouts, whose mission is to find the best bacon in the country, has ranked Drummond 11th in the nation -- the only Michigan butcher shop in the list of the country's top 13 bacon producers. Five each are from Wisconsin and Minnesota, while Iowa and South Dakota each have one producer on the list.

Bacon Scouts has bacon ranking down to a science. It grades bacon on a scale of one to five stars in four separate categories: robust flavor, shrinkage, fat-to-meat ratio and saltiness. Drummond's bacon earned four stars for fat-to-meat ratio and three stars in the other categories.

Bacon Scouts, in its online report, likes that Drummond will slice slab bacon into customers' preferred thickness.

"We recommend this bacon as a solid alternative to big box bacon," Bacon Scouts concluded.

Drummond said the bacon is his granddad's recipe. Part of the secret to its goodness is that after the pork bellies are cured, they're smoked twice. Another  important factor is that the hogs are local, from Coopersville, and are grain-fed and hormone-free.

"We sell a lot of it," Drummond said of his bacon. "Doctors, lawyers -- they love it."

Drummond is a fourth-generation meat cutter, and worked in various meat markets. He had worked for Dana Corp. for 10 years before he decided to open his own butcher shop in 2006.

He may be a good butcher, but he's also a smart business man. He brings a frying pan with him to the new Muskegon Farmer's Market, where the smell of cooking bacon is hard to resist.

"Boy, do we sell a lot of bacon down there," Drummond said.


3 Muskegon companies included on '50 Michigan companies to watch' list



MUSKEGON, MI – Three Muskegon businesses were recently recognized as up-and-comers at a statewide ceremony held at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.

Winners.jpgFrom left: Dave Spaulding, president of Smart Vision Lights, Matt Pinter, Engineering Manager, Smart Vision Lights, Susan Pinter, Jill Batka, president of Dynamic Conveyor Corporation and Eric Ringelberg, CEO of NeXt I.T. pose with their awards at the 10thAnnual Michigan Celebrates Small Business Awards Ceremony in East Lansing on May 6.

Dynamic Conveyor Corporation, Smart Vision Lights and NeXt I.T. were all included as three of the top 50 companies to watch at the 10th Annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business Awards Ceremony.

Dynamic Conveyor Corporation, located at 5980 Grand Haven Road, was officially formed as a corporation in 1991 by Curtis Chambers. It is now owned and operated by Chambers' daughter Jill Batka and designs conveyors specifically for food processing and packaging.

Smart Vision Lights, located at 2359 Holton Road, is a leading designer and manufacturer of high-brightness LED lights for industrial applications.

"We are very pleased to be honored with this award and recognition," said David Spaulding, president of Smart Vision Lights in a press release. "Our staff is dedicated to continuously improving our products and processes so that our customers and partners can remain successful and we can contribute to our state's continued economic growth."

NeXt I.T., located at 423 W. Norton Ave., offers computer support to a wide variety of companies including small businesses, non-profits and schools. It has four locations throughout Michigan including Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Sturgis. Its CEO is Eric Ringelberg.

Winners of the Michigan Celebrates Small Business Awards Ceremony were selected by Michigan-based judges from banking, economic development, entrepreneurship development and venture capital communities.


Jobs up, unemployment rate down for Muskegon County in March numbers


Jobs up, unemployment rate down for Muskegon County in March numbers

The Thurgood Marshall Job, Health & Resource Fair in Muskegon Heights April 29, 2014
Brother and sister, Halbert Stegall, 30, and Sontra Stegall, 27, of Muskegon work to fill out digital job applications at a job fair Tuesday, April 29 in Muskegon Heights. Muskegon County's unemployment rate has in improved to 7.9 percent in March 2014.(Stephen Kloosterman/MLive.com)










MUSKEGON, MI – Muskegon County's total number of non-farm jobs and its unemployment rate both showed improvement during the month of March.

The Muskegon-Norton Shores Metropolitan Statistical Area – which encompasses the county – had its unemployment rate drop significantly to 7.9 percent. The county also added a few hundred jobs, according to numbers for March released by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget.

The numbers aren't adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in the jobs market. The percentage of people in the workforce who are jobless went down, despite a surge in the number of people looking for work.

In the spring, "more people get back into the job market," said Ed Garner, president of the economic development group Muskegon Area First. "I think that's what you see there." He said that people entering the workforce could include college students looking for summer jobs.

At 7.9 percent, Muskegon County's unemployment rate is down slightly from 8.3 percent the previous month, and more than a percentage point from 12 months before, in March 2013, when the rate was 9.4 percent.

The county's March rate of 7.9 percent compares to a statewide rate of 8 percent and a nationwide rate of 6.8 percent.

"In early 2014, the majority of the state's local labor markets continue to show solid over-the-year improvement," said Jason Palmer, director of Michigan's Bureau of Labor Market Information & Strategic Initiatives. 

In a survey of households, 76,600 people reported being employed – 400 more than the previous month and 2,200 more than 12 months before.

Garner said much of the job growth was likely in the hospitality industry, as tourism-related businesses wound up for the summer months. But there also have been a significant number of retail hires -- 70-80 part- and full-time employees were hired with the opening of Gordman's Department Store in Norton Shores, he said.


Best Places for Homeownership in Michigan


Best Places for Homeownership in Michigan


by NERDWALLET on APRIL 25, 2014

Written by Chip Olsen

Michigan is surrounded by the enormous Great Lakes and offers many impressive public universities. The state boasts a rich automotive history, the unmistakable Motown sound and the multitalented Eminem. If you want to relocate to the Wolverine State, or you currently reside in one of its two peninsulas and plan to purchase a new home, check out our list of best places to own a home in Michigan.

Smart house hunters should also visit the Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s website to learn about programs that provide assistance, including the down payment assistance program, the mortgage credit certificate program, various other loan programs and homebuyer education classes and services. Plus, the state also administers a homebuyer program to support low-income homebuyers.

NerdWallet analyzed all the Michigan places with more than 10,000 residents to determine which have characteristics that are favorable to homebuyers. Our analysis answers three main questions:

1. Are homes available? We looked at the area’s homeownership rate to determine the availability of homes. A low homeownership rate is likely a signal of competitive inventory, more options for renters rather than buyers and expensive housing. Areas with a high homeownership rate led to a higher overall score.

2. Can you afford to live there? We looked at median household income, monthly homeowner costs and median home value to assess affordability and determine whether residents could live comfortably in the area. We used monthly homeowner costs to measure cost of living. Areas with high median incomes and low cost of living scored higher. Thinking of buying a home yourself? Learn more about current mortgage rates and mortgage refinancing options in our mortgage guide, as well as whether it’s best to rent or buy.

3. Is the area growing? We measured population growth to ensure that the area is attracting new residents and showing signs of solid growth. This is likely a signal of a robust local economy, which is another attractive characteristic for homebuyers.

For more details on our methodology, please see the “Methodology” section at the end of the report.

For more information on these and other places, check out NerdWallet Cities and NerdWallet’s Cost of Living Calculator.

Best Places for Homeownership in Michigan

1. New Baltimore

This Macomb County city is about 36 miles northeast of Detroit, the state’s largest city, and about 15 miles from the Canadian border. This well-established waterfront community beside Anchor Bay offers affordable monthly homeownership costs at just 25.6% of median monthly household income. New Baltimore has an 82.8% homeownership rate and a median home value of $171,800. According to U.S. Census figures, the population increased by 4.9% between 2010 and 2012, the highest rate of growth on our list. Each June, New Baltimore residents rally around the FishFly Festival, a perennial summer favorite featuring a parade, the Miss Bay-Rama pageant, a cardboard boat regatta and more. Throughout the year, children and adults alike enjoy programs at the MacDonald Public Library. The Anchor Bay Community Foundation presents several grants that benefit New Baltimore, and the Anchor Bay Chamber of Commerce works to unite business interests within Macomb and St. Clair counties.

2. Forest Hills

This unincorporated area in Kent County tops our list with an impressive homeownership rate of 94.9% and homeownership costs—the lowest on our list—that amount to just 21.3% of the median monthly household income of $9,215. The area is about 12 miles east of Grand Rapids, the state’s second-most populous city. The median home value in Forest Hills is $253,100, the highest on our top 10 list, and between 2010 and 2012 it saw a 3.2% uptick in population. Residents here take pride in their impressive Fine Arts Center, which welcomes professional artists, student performances and several special events. Residents here also enjoy activities and classes at the Forest Hills Aquatic Center.

3. Jenison

About 20 miles east from the beaches of Lake Michigan, unincorporated Jenison has a homeownership rate of 86.8% and homeowner costs that take up 27.1% of the $4,414 median monthly household income. Two public school systems and four parochial schools educate Jenison students. The Jenison Aquatics facility offers water polo and other swimming activities for residents, and in nearby Hudsonville the Georgetown Ice Center offers hockey leagues, figure skating and more. Plus, Jenison and the surrounding communities feature abundant parks and recreational opportunities for those who love the outdoors. The Grandville Jenison Chamber of Commerce makes it simple to support local businesses with its “Shop Here” campaign. In addition, the chamber supports various workshops and seminars to help entrepreneurs.

4. Lambertville

Lambertville is located about nine miles north of Toledo, Ohio, and Ann Arbor is only a 40-minute drive north. This unincorporated community sits in the Bedford Township in Monroe County, with monthly homeownership costs at 24% of median monthly household income and an 85.6% homeownership rate. Lambertville’s White Park offers ball fields and hiking trails, and other recreational options can be found at Parmelee Park, including hiking, tennis and basketball courts and a skate park. The Maple Grove Golf Club stretches across state lines and offers two courses. Additional attractions within a short distance from Lambertville include the Toledo Zoo and the Stranahan Theater.

5. East Grand Rapids

Monthly homeownership costs in East Grand Rapids represent just 21.7% of median monthly household income, the second-lowest percentage on our list. Meanwhile, the 91.2% homeownership rate is the second-highest on our list. The median home value in this city stands at $248,000, and living here provides abundant options for fitness enthusiasts or casual exercisers, as the city maintains multiple parks and trails. Water lovers also take advantage of the beautiful 283-acre Reeds Lake. Convenient shopping can be found at the Gaslight Village. And the East Grand Rapids Community Foundation raises funds for beneficial projects throughout the area, such as the Reeds Lake Trail, a pedestrian pathway. Each year the city plays host to numerous special events, including Movies in the Park, the Daddy Daughter Dance and the Mom and Son Night.

6. Norton Shores

Norton Shores offers more than six miles of pristine Lake Michigan real estate and this Muskegon County city is mere minutes from the shores along the P.J. Hoffmaster State Park, where camping, hiking, skiing and Michigan’s wondrous dunes await. The city has a homeownership rate of 85.7% and monthly homeowner costs that take up 30.4% of the median monthly household income. Norton Shores supports Muskegon Area First, a countywide effort to attract new businesses to the area. Several options are available for youth sport opportunities, and every August, residents enjoy an arts and crafts fair.

7. Holt

This unincorporated area located about a dozen miles southeast of Lansing, the state capital, has a homeownership rate of 74.5% and homeownership costs at 31.5% of median monthly household income. Holt’s location in the Delhi Charter Township means easy commutes for higher educational pursuits at Michigan State University, Lansing Community College and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. The area features seven parks that offer playgrounds, skiing, skating and more. The newest addition is Veterans Memorial Gardens, which pays tribute to each branch of the nation’s military. Holt also offers a farmer’s market and the area has sport leagues for all ages.

8. Northview

About 10 miles northeast of Grand Rapids, Northview sits in the Plainfield Charter Township, which offers a vibrant park system throughout 36 square miles in Kent County. Unincorporated Northview made our list with homeownership costs at 30.5% of median monthly household income and a 75.9% homeownership rate. Between 2010 and 2012, the population edged up by 1.8%. Kent County has a housing rehabilitation program that provides deferred payment loans and grants to homeowners who need help with home improvements.

9. Cutlerville

Cutlerville, an unincorporated area located about 10 miles south of Grand Rapids and about seven miles south of the city of Wyoming, has a homeownership rate of 69.9% and its population increased by 3.2% between 2010 and 2012. Cutlerville residents enjoy plenty of nearby attractions, such as the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum and the John Ball Zoo, all located in Grand Rapids. Plus, Lake Michigan’s shoreline is just a short drive away.

10. Allen Park

Allen Park, about 12 miles southwest of Detroit, is home to the Uniroyal Giant Tire, a known roadside attraction along Interstate 94 that honors the region’s rich automotive roots. The homeownership rate here is 87.3%, while homeownership costs take up 28.3% of median monthly household income. The Allen Park Economic Development Department supports the Neighborhood Enterprise Zone, a government program that upgrades residential housing, as well as other tax-incentive programs designed to help the community and attract businesses to the area. Allen Park residents stay fit at the town’s fitness center, and the city offers a number of parks. Beginning in June, the popular Allen Park Farmer’s Market will kick off its fifth season, and the 33rd annual Allen Park Arts & Crafts Street Fair is scheduled for Aug. 1 and 2.


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Nearest Big City

Home Ownership Rate

Median Selected Monthly Homeowner Costs

Median Monthly Household Income

Homeowner Costs as a Percentage of Household Income

Median Home Values

2010-2012 Population Growth

Overall Score for Home Owners


New Baltimore










Forest Hills

Grand Rapids










Grand Rapids










Toledo, Ohio









East Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids









Norton Shores

Grand Rapids




















Grand Rapids










Grand Rapids









Allen Park











Grand Rapids



















South Lyon

Ann Arbor



















St. Clair Shores










Garden City










Beverly Hills










Grosse Pointe Woods











Grand Rapids









Sterling Heights










The overall score for each city was derived from each of these measures:

1. Homeownership rate made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher rate earned a higher score. The rate comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.

2. Selected monthly owner costs as a percentage of median household income made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower percentage earned a higher score. Monthly homeowner costs as a percentage of median household income made up half of the affordability score. Median household income comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 03. Monthly homeowner costs come from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.

3. Median home value made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower value earned a higher score. Median home value made up half of the affordability score. Median home value comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.

4. Population change from 2010 to 2012 made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher-percentage change earned a higher score. The 2010 population comes from the 2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. The 2012 population data comes from the 2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. NerdWallet calculated the percentage change.

Only places with more than 10,000 residents were included in this analysis.



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