Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

November 17, 2013

Manufacturing makes a comeback

TRAVERSE CITY — What a difference a few years makes for Michigan manufacturers.

Five years ago the state’s economy was in a death spiral; it led the nation in job losses for nearly a decade straight.

These days the economic climate in Michigan is far different, said Mitchell Stapley, chief investment officer at Fifth Third Bank. Michigan now leads the nation in jobs creation in the manufacturing sector, Stapley said, although few people know it.

“Think about what the state has suffered through from the manufacturing standpoint alone,” Stapley said in an address to more than 500 northern Michigan business leaders at the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Economic Outlook gathering on Nov. 12.

“We literally went through our own black plague (in) manufacturing,” he said. “We lost almost half of our jobs in the manufacturing sector over that decade, basically bottoming in 2009.

“What is exciting is how we’ve responded to that downturn,” he said. “The manufacturing sector in the state is now leaner and meaner than it has ever been, and one of the really good news stories that has not been shared enough since 2009 is that Michigan leads the nation in manufacturing job creation.” Stapley said. “We are leading the nation. That has tremendous implications for investment from a market perspective. Its been a long time since you’ve been able to point to Michigan as a leader in a sector of economic growth.”

The improvement in the manufacturing sector is happening not just at retoooled auto plants in southern Michigan, but also in the Grand Traverse region. At Clark Manufacturing in Traverse City the machining and lathe company added approximately 10 new workers to its manufacturing work force this year.

Cameron Fuller, a Clark vice president, said the turnaround is noticeable, especially considering the economic doldrums of 2008 and 2009, when the company was forced to make cutbacks.

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