LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) - Furniture maker Herman Miller, Inc., is expected to create up to 600 new manufacturing jobs in Ottawa County over the next several years, thanks in part to job-creation tax credits approved Tuesday by a state board.
24 Hour News 8 first reported the possibility of the Michigan Economic Growth Authority credits Monday.
As many as 160 jobs could come in the first year, according to state documents connected to the project.
"This is fantastic news for West Michigan," said Randy Thelen, president of economic development group Lakeshore Advantage.
The jobs would pay an average of about $45,800 per year, according to those state documents.
But a company spokesman stressed the number of jobs created will be tied to growth in business. Herman Miller hopes to be able to add jobs as it invests $11 million in two facilities in Holland and Holland Township.
If the furniture firm creates the full 600 jobs, it will receive $7.8 million in state tax credits over the next seven years. Companies receive the credits only when the jobs are created, state leaders have said.
Company and state leaders said the credits will help keep the projected growth in Michigan, instead of Sheboygan, Wis. or New York City, where the firm also has facilities.
If the hiring happens, it would mark a shift from recent job losses. In January and February 2009, Herman Miller announced the elimination of about 600 jobs.
"Nobody likes to lay people off," Thelen said. "But they certainly are fighting and finding ways to grow again."
Loss of furniture industry jobs triggered job losses among firms that supply those businesses, the economic development leader said, and industry job growth should help re-grow that supply chain.
Herman Miller plans to spend about $5.7 million of the company's $11 million investment on a headquarters, showroom and the manufacturing for its health care business at the company's Greenhouse facility in Holland Township.
The other $5.3 million would go to create a research and design center at Herman Miller's Design Yard on 48th Street in Holland.
24 Hour News 8 asked state Treasurer Bob Kleine, who is also the new chair of the Michigan Economic Growth Authority board, if it makes sense to award MEGA credits in a case such as this, when a company has shed jobs and now plans to add them.
"I think so," he said. "A lot of companies have had a very difficult time in the economy the last two years. It's been pretty hard to maintain your job level in this difficult of an environment."
And the treasurer defended the state's use of tax credits in general. They've come under fire from some candidates for office and other critics who say the incentives "pick winners and losers."
Kleine said other states use similar tax incentives and when decision time comes, it often "depends on who's offering the best package. So I don't think we can afford not to compete in this area."
Holland and Holland Township are looking at local tax breaks for the project as well.
Currently, only about a half dozen West Michigan positions are posted as available at Herman Miller.
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