Manufacturing

Medbio LLC, a West Michigan-based manufacturer of injection moldings, assemblies and packaging for medical device and biotech industry, has acquired AIM Plastics Inc.

Private equity firm Auxo Investment Partners moved deeper into the marine transportation business with an investment in Muskegon-based Andrie Inc.

Manufacturing holding company Andronaco Industries Inc. plans to relocate its Conley Composites LLC subsidiary from Oklahoma to a new location in Kent County.

DOWAGIAC — The non-gaming arm of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians had acquired a majority stake in Enmark Tool & Gage Co., a Southeast Michigan precision machining company. The tribe’s Mno-Bmadsen business investment arm closed on the deal on Feb. 1, according to a statement.

After nine months of investigation, the U.S. Department of Commerce submitted a concealed national security report on Sunday that prompted an immediate backlash from the auto industry.

Universal Forest Products Inc. is acquiring the assets of a Grand Rapids-based wood panel components manufacturer.

As the Trump administration prepares to roll back emissions regulations that push cars to be cleaner and more fuel efficient, it may also set the stage for a political battle that could create a rift in the U.S. auto industry. After several months of comment and a possible setback from the 35-day government shutdown last month, the newly finalized fuel economy rules are due from the administration by March 31. However, following the publication of the proposed changes, California and eighteen other states announced that if less-stringent fuel economy rules are enacted, they will sue the government — which may lead to a period of prolonged regulatory uncertainty.

MUSKEGON — A lakeshore fabrication shop hopes to capitalize on explosive growth in the U.S. craft distilling industry by offering custom Michigan-made stills and other equipment. NexGen Mechanical Solutions LLC founder Scott Whitaker, a pipefitter by trade, over the last 13 years developed a niche in serving the region’s distilleries, including New Holland Artisan Spirits in Holland and Muskegon-based 18th Amendment Spirits Co.

Office furniture manufacturer Haworth Inc. reported an increase in sales for 2018.

For the first time in four years, sales for direct-selling giant Amway Corp. have grown on a year-over-year basis.

BELMONT — Filter and Coating Technology Inc., a supplier of filter and coating solutions for the automotive and industrial markets, is under new ownership.

Kendall Electric Inc. acquired an Ohio-based distributor of electrical equipment.

After nearly a century in Michigan, Harsco Corp. plans to permanently close its only manufacturing facility in the state, starting April 1.

Like more than half of Michigan’s manufacturers, business runs in the family at Grand Rapids-based Pridgeon & Clay Inc.

Despite a looming plateau in auto sales and automakers overwhelmingly betting on the same pieces of the market, savvy suppliers could still realize major opportunities in the coming years. Those opportunities come as automotive sales hit nearly 17.3 million units for 2018, with trucks and SUVs up 8 percent, accounting for around 11.8 million units. Meanwhile, passenger car sales dipped 13 percent to 5.5 million units.

With the final winter North American International Auto Show in the books, the century-old expo in Detroit and newer market-specific shows across the Midwest may start to change organically — but organizers aren’t planning on it.

Oliver Healthcare Packaging has expanded with a deal for a supplier of medical device packaging on the West Coast.

A subsidiary of a China-based manufacturer of electromechanical actuators plans to invest $2 million into a new headquarters facility on the lakeshore.

Westshore Design LLC plans to add customers in new markets with the acquisition of a Moline, Mich. electronics manufacturer.

HOLLAND — Acquiring the assets of a Charlotte-based plastics molder gave Clarion Technologies Inc. a broader customer base, added manufacturing capacity and the ability to move production closer to clients. The Holland-based Clarion Technologies acquired certain assets and a book of business from CNI Plastics LLC of Charlotte. Clarion Technologies redeployed the production equipment acquired in the deal to its facilities in Greenville, Mich., Anderson, S.C., and Garland, Texas.

Heavy truck industry supplier SAF-Holland Inc. has acquired a majority stake in a company that manufactures automatic tire pressure management systems.

Grand Haven-based GHSP Inc. is a global manufacturer “rooted into the West Michigan area,” according to Chief Technology Officer Marc Smeyers. In the past, GHSP was known for auto technology that combined electronics and mechanical engineering. Now, the company — a division of JSJ Corp. — is working across multiple industries for smart technology applications. At the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, GHSP introduced a future concept vehicle, products that use ultraviolet C (UVC) light to disinfect themselves, and a kitchen backsplash that’s an edge-to-edge touchscreen. Smeyers spoke to MiBiz about crossover technology in an increasingly fast-paced environment.

GRAND RAPIDS — The executives behind an iconic American superbike brand are breathing new life into the company and relaunching “boutique” motorcycle production in West Michigan. By establishing low-volume production of EBR Motorcycles in Grand Rapids, owner Bill Melvin hopes to bring sustainability to the company founded by famed motorcycle racer Erik Buell some 35 years ago.

As Larry Lewis advanced in his career as an engineer in the manufacturing, construction and telecommunications industries, he relied on computers as an essential tool for his everyday work. His aptitude grew alongside the technology, to which he was first exposed at Dartmouth College in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Most manufacturers can expect to fork over less in taxes for last year, and companies that monitor the shifting provisions could capitalize on greater investment in a few key areas. Although most of the tax cuts from the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 became effective for manufacturers on Jan. 1, 2018, businesses in all industries have been left with questions and uncertainty about how the new laws need to be applied, said Joel Mitchell, a tax partner at Plante Moran PLLC in Grand Rapids.

NORTON SHORES — A company that moved out of Norton Shores before its tax abatements expired is now suing the lakeshore community and fighting the city’s demands for repayment of nearly $1 million.

WYOMING — A Cleveland-based producer of specialty abrasive products plans to move part of its business to the Grand Rapids area after it was acquired by local private equity firm Stone Fox Ventures LLC.

NORTON SHORES — A lakeshore community is asking a manufacturer Wacker Neuson Corp. to pay back lost tax revenue after the company left town before fulfilling the obligations of its tax abatement. Wacker Neuson, a manufacturer of construction equipment that had been located in Norton Shores since 2007, closed its facility at 1300 E. Mount Garfield Road in August 2018, two and a half years before the expiration of one of six tax abatements it received.

A Southwest Michigan box manufacturer has agreed to pay $400,000 after it faced allegations of misconduct in connection to a multi-state subcontract with the federal government.

West Michigan-based contract furniture makers Steelcase Inc. and Herman Miller Inc. expect to maintain sales momentum going into 2019.

Now that all adults in Michigan can legally use marijuana, employers are weighing how the new law — and misunderstandings about it — could affect their workforces.

Hines Corp., a family-owned industrial holding company, has divested its Ohio-based Hines Specialty Vehicle Group.

Whether the West Michigan manufacturing industry continues on an ongoing growth trend in 2019 or veers into a contraction remains uncertain. Economist Paul Isely, associate dean for undergraduate programs in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University, uses automotive, furniture, agriculture, and “amazingly nowadays” aerospace manufacturing to find the pulse of where the region’s economy is headed in the coming months and years. 

West Michigan-based manufacturing executives think 2019 marks a good time to take a pause from the recent breakneck pace of capital investments and acquisitions to focus on operations. That’s the general consensus from local manufacturing leaders across a range of industries who participated in a forward-looking roundtable discussion with MiBiz earlier this month. 

West Michigan manufacturers are dealing with a host of issues, ranging from trade and tariffs to talent and technology. As they wade through those challenges, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West is there to help, according to Regional Director Justine Burdette. As MMTC seeks to “maintain that closeness and relationships with our manufacturers,” the organization is finding new ways to adapt and address their needs, she said. 

Cascade Die Casting Group Inc. is a manufacturer heavily concentrated in the automotive industry. Although the company recently lost business related to the closure of several General Motors plants, the industry shift from low price-point cars to higher-margin trucks and SUVs has President Patrick Greene cautiously optimistic about continued growth in 2019.

This year, unemployment rates have dropped to an 18-year low and local manufacturers are scrambling to find new and innovative ways to grow without gaps. As founder of the advisory firm 100X LLC and chair of Vistage Executive Peer Group, an executive coaching organization, former manufacturing exec Steve Johandes helps dozens of local organizations and companies position themselves for “what’s next” in the market. 

Women are critical to addressing the serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled production positions, according to Kelly Springer, CEO of Metal Flow Corp., a Holland-based automotive supplier. Yet, relatively few women choose manufacturing careers. As chair of Inforum’s ManufacturingNext steering committee, Springer is helping to strengthen the talent pipeline of women who thrive in manufacturing professions. 

After acquiring Nuvar Inc. in May from its long-time owner, Amy Sparks is executing on growth plans for the Holland-based manufacturer and developer of finished goods primarily for the contract furniture industry. While she’s mindful of some softening in the broader market, Sparks remains “cautiously optimistic” for the economy in 2019. 

The 2019 forecast for the automotive industry remains steady, although sales are expected to experience “a little bit of a step down” to 16.8 million units compared to an expected 17.1 million units this year, according to Mike Wall, director of automotive analysis at IHS Markit. The big cloud over the industry currently hinges on tariffs and trade deals, specifically the United States Mexico Canada Agreement. Wall expects the USMCA to get enacted in some form, even though he does expect to see “some adjustments on the margins.”

Contract furniture manufacturer Herman Miller Inc. today reported strong quarterly sales and earnings gains.

A Northern Michigan Tier 1 supplier of engineered plastic assemblies has been acquired by a private equity firm.

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