Experts: Grand Rapids economy poised to bounce back from pandemic

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids is on the verge of an economic boom, according to the city and the region’s economic development agency.

Local experts think Grand Rapids is in a good position to become an economic leader in the Midwest once the pandemic is over.

For-hire signs are up and unemployment is dropping. The unemployment rate sits at 5.5% for the four-county area that includes Barry, Kent, Montcalm and Ottawa. That figure has almost returned to where it stood before the pandemic.

“We have as many and frankly more job postings today than we had pre-pandemic,” Randy Thelen, the new CEO of The Right Place, Inc., said.

He pointed to companies moving their headquarters to Grand Rapids this year, Michigan State University continuing to add to the Medical Mile and riverfront developments moving forward as examples.

Still, Thelen acknowledged that people are hurting. The hospitality industry was hit hard by months of closures over the past year. Parsley Mediterranean Grille in downtown Grand Rapids says profits are down by about 25% right now, but the owner says business is getting better.

“I have seen the business already start to rise,” Parsley owner Zaid Kaskorkis said. “I’m not sure if it’s going to be a boom but it’s for sure going to increase little by little.”

Kaskorkis is excited for more businesses moving into the city.

“Any new business that come in, it’s only going to attract more people to come downtown,” he said.

The Right Place recognizes that some people have moved out of their downtown offices and won’t return. It says about 20,000 workers, mostly women, have left the workforce to provide child care during the pandemic. Thelen said we need to get them back to thrive.

That being said, he is confident in West Michigan’s future.

“I expect we will have a very strong ’21 and I would expect that to go on for the next couple of years,” Thelen said.

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