MUSKEGON, MI – That good vibe some are feeling in the Muskegon-area economy of late was backed up late last week with the federal government’s release of gross domestic product numbers for metro areas.
Real GDP change from 2010 to 2011 was a healthy 2.82 percent for Muskegon County, according to the 2011 GDP data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Muskegon County sat third among 14 metro areas in Michigan for GDP growth for 2011. Only Detroit at a 3.49 percent increase and Ottawa County at a 4.23 percent hike were higher than Muskegon County.
West Michigan was shown to be on the upswing because, along with state-leading growth in Ottawa County, the Grand Rapids-Wyoming metro area was fourth in the state with a 2.33 percent GDP growth.
“I think this bodes well for our community and the diversity we have in our economy,” said Ed Garner, president of Muskegon Area First, the local economic development agency. “We are seeing most sectors of our economy are up except for the defense industry.”
Not all Michigan communities are doing as well in economic activity as West Michigan. Kalamazoo, Lansing, Bay City, Monroe, Battle Creek and Benton Harbor actually lost GDP in 2011. GDP is the monetary value of all goods and services produced within, in this case, the federal metropolitan statistical areas, including both public and private consumption, according to federal economic analysts.
“The growth is mixed across metro areas in Michigan and I would say that most of all, the diversity of the industry mix of the local economies is going to be a key determinant into whether or not the metro area is going to grow or see declines in real GDP,” federal economist Sharon Panek told MLive with the release of the latest statistics.
Garner said Muskegon’s economy has diversified nicely over the past few decades going from an economy relying on heavy industry to one that now shows a balance across a half dozen sectors.
Muskegon County’s economic activity equally is being generated through health care, manufacturing, leisure/hospitality, retail and business services, Garner said. In the all-important manufacturing sector, Muskegon continues to be led by metal fabrication but also has strong automotive parts, aerospace and furniture sector companies.
Construction, trade and information technology sectors grew the largest in 2011 with government showing the steepest decline, according to the federal analysis.
“We are keeping things in a balance,” Garner said. “People are becoming more optimistic about our local economy.”
Muskegon Area First has been working on a projects list of more than 20 developments in the Muskegon-area in the past few months, Garner said. Those developments range from residential projects in downtown Muskegon to industrial expansions of existing companies and new retail investments near The Lakes Mall, he said.
“Companies continue to keep adding investment, but we have not seen a ton of jobs for those projects,” Garner said.
As Muskegon’s economy has reached back to more activity prior to the Great Recession, jobs have not followed the same path.
Muskegon County’s economy was valued at $4.52 billion in 2008 as the recession took hold. The local GDP dipped to $4.3 billion in 2009 before shooting up to $4.82 billion by 2011, according to the government’s latest data.
Job creation has not been as fortunate. Muskegon County is down about 1,000 jobs since the beginning of the recession: 73,756 at the end of 2012 vs. 74,738 at the end of 2008.