Page 1 of 41 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›

Skilled Trades Training Fund Changes in 2017

West Michigan Works! held Skilled Trades Training Fund (STTF) employer sessions this August, and noted below are a few details about the changes for STTF fiscal year 2017 program to secure funds to train workers. 

  • Applications are available on Sept 12th and can start being received on the 13th. 
  • Scoring is weighted (and on the application materials) and all applications will be reviewed by the State starting Oct 15th.  It is possible that the review process will take up to Thanksgiving for companies to know if they have been approved.  November is the target month for awards. 
  • Points are given if a company has never received STTF funds.  No points are given for those who have received funds from this program in the past. 
  • Applications need to be turned in to Michigan Works by Oct 10th to be reviewed and submitted to the State.
  • Max funds allowed are $1,500 per employee for classroom and OJT (wages)
  • Max funds allowed for a DOL registered apprenticeship is $3,000
  • Funds can be matched with federal dollars.


8/24/2016 // HOLLAND, MICH –Koops, Inc., a systems integrator offering custom factory automation solutions, announced today they will invest nearly $4.9 million in building construction, machinery and equipment in Holland, and create 60 new jobs. Koops, Inc. is an employee-owned company headquarted in Holland, MI.

“Michigan is a great place to live and work. Koops is excited about continuing our growth in Holland with the addition of a new facility,” said Paul Brinks, CEO of Koops, Inc. “This project would not be possible without our strong partnerships in West Michigan.”

Lakeshore Advantage played a key role in supporting Koops, Inc. by connecting the company with resources and tools to support their Holland expansion. This partnership was influential in assisting Koops, Inc. with the decision to expand in Holland over a location in another state.

"Over the years, Koops has grown to be a leader in automation solutions,” said Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage. “Koops provides manufacturers throughout the world with necessary tools to allow for efficiency and growth.”

Founded in 1989, Koops, Inc. designs and builds innovative specialty machines and equipment for industries including automotive, transportation, aerospace, construction, medical, furniture and pharmaceutical. Koops, Inc. has experienced substantial growth, reaching capacity at its current location.

The City of Holland has offered support to the project in the form of a 12-year P.A. 198 property tax abatement to support the company’s growth locally.

“We are celebrating with Koops!  Their expansion represents not only their own success, but also the demand in our area for innovative production engineering,” said City of Holland Mayor Nancy DeBoer. “Their expertise in technology, people and process will help manufacturing throughout our region continue to be cutting-edge.”

Koops was awarded a $360,000 performance-based grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to help offset construction costs and strengthen Koops’ footprint in West Michigan. The company plans to construct an approximately 40,000 square foot facility in Holland adjacent to their current operations on land the company currently owns.

“Koops’ expansion in Michigan rather than other locations means well-paying jobs for Michigan residents and underscores the strength of the state’s manufacturing talent,” said Steve Arwood, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which administers incentives and programs on behalf of the Michigan Strategic Fund. “This decision by Koops to invest here offers further evidence of Michigan’s manufacturing leadership and our commitment to helping companies grow and generate new jobs for our residents.”

Koops, Inc. is also receiving a grant from West Michigan Works! for $90,500 to assist with employee recruiting, hiring and training.

"West Michigan Works! is focused on providing our region's employers with a skilled and qualified workforce so that they can meet the demands of a growing economy,” said Jacob Maas, CEO of West Michigan Works!. “We're pleased to support the Koops expansion and continue to provide resources for business growth on the lakeshore."

To learn more about robotic technology, factory automation or employment opportunities at Koops, Inc., visit


8/19/2016 // OTTAWA COUNTY, MICH – At a time when Ottawa County is experiencing the lowest unemployment levels in the state, employee recruiters and human resource professionals have a new tool to assist in attracting workers to West Michigan. The Michigan Smart Coast website at serves to connect early-stage professionals to career and lifestyle opportunities, with cost of living information, community descriptions, products made in the region, links to temporary housing and content and design targeted toward attracting young professionals to the area.

“Regional partners and human resource professionals identified the need for a community platform to communicate with potential out-of-area employees about living in our region, especially for those early in their careers,” said Jennifer Owens, president, Lakeshore Advantage. “This website tells our story that West Michigan is the place to start and further your career while experiencing life fulfillment and connectedness through personal and professional opportunities.”

The Michigan Smart Coast brand is managed by Lakeshore Advantage as an economic development tool to support primary employers in the area. Lakeshore Advantage surveys area businesses each year to identify needs specific to helping them grow here. Talent attraction and retention are top priorities for primary employers in the area, especially now as Ottawa County is the fastest growing county in Michigan, and has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at three percent (May 2016). The Michigan Smart Coast website serves to help fill the talent attraction gap for employers, giving them a tool to share with new recruits so they can get a taste of what life is like along Michigan’s Smart Coast.

The website features duality messaging, such as “Beachtowns. Downtowns,” and “Find Home. Find Purpose,” to show a sense of place and connectedness that research indicated was important to the early-stage professional demographic. The site includes links to temporary housing and apartments, volunteer opportunities, descriptions of West Michigan communities, events, career opportunities, videos and products made in West Michigan.

Research that shaped the website design and content was conducted through five separate focus groups with the targeted demographic, chamber partners and employers. Key research findings that drove features on the website included the desire for new recruits to feel connected to the region, with a place to find recreation, group events and volunteer opportunities. Other options, such as how to find temporary housing, and curiosity about other businesses, including depth of industry in the region to support career growth once the individual moved here, were also important to early-stage professionals. 

In addition to attracting early-stage professionals through the website, the Michigan Smart Coast brand aims to attract and retain college interns and affinity groups with high professional concentrations in our area, such as designers and engineers, through social media and events. A Michigan Smart Coast hands-on experience was attended by nearly 60 practicing engineers at Yanfeng Human Factors Research Lab yesterday, giving engineers a first-hand look into the consumer research that influences product design being done in our region. Michigan Smart Coast and community events are featured in the events section of the website.

About Michigan Smart Coast
Michigan Smart Coast is a brand representing West Michigan with the goal of retaining and attracting talent to the region. West Michigan communities and employers are welcome to and encouraged to adopt the Michigan Smart Coast brand as it suits their employee recruiting efforts. Lakeshore Advantage founded the brand to support area human resource professionals in their efforts to secure talent so that their companies can grow. More at




Our National Mustard Day social media campaign kicked off this morning, celebrating the recent Kraft Heinz company expansion project that secured Holland’s position as one of the top producers of mustard in the U.S.  Our first post is scheduled for 7am this morning, and additional posts are scheduled each hour throughout the day.  

-The Lakeshore Advantage Facebook page (

Who: Lakeshore Advantage and community leaders

What: We are running a National Mustard Day social media campaign to showcase Holland as the sole producer of Grey Poupon in the United States, making our region one of the largest mustard producers in the country.

Connection to our community: This campaign celebrates the growth of one of the city’s oldest employers and will feature company and community leaders who worked to support Kraft Heinz’s Holland expansion thus far. Representatives from Heinz, the government, and others will pose with jars of Grey Poupon and share some thoughts about the expansion for the audience to get a behind-the-scenes look at those involved. One person will be featured each hour on the Lakeshore Advantage Facebook page throughout the day.

When: 7:00 AM-6:00 PM, August 5, 2016. National Mustard Day is Saturday, August 6, 2016.

Why: The $17 million Kraft Heinz expansion in Holland will create 50 new jobs in Holland. These social media posts will thank those involved in the expansion and inform the public about economic growth in Holland.


8/4/2016 // ZEELAND, MICH –Lakeshore Advantage, a non-profit economic development organization working directly with employers in West Michigan, released its 2016 Business Intelligence Report this morning. The analysis allows for understanding of economic strengths, growth opportunities and barriers to growth area businesses face.

“We are thankful for the willingness and trust employers have in us as we ask some detailed questions about their businesses,” said Jennifer Owens, president, Lakeshore Advantage. “Employer input is invaluable as it serves as the raw data, the primary research, that drives economic development initiatives custom-fit to bridge the gaps identified by businesses in our region.”

The annual Business Intelligence Report is the analysis of data gathered through surveying 118 primary employers in Allegan and Ottawa counties. Primary employers are businesses that export goods and services out of the region and bring wealth back into the community. These employers form the very core of the region’s economic vitality, driving home the importance of understanding trends and operational needs critical to the region’s economic base.

Lakeshore Advantage has been interviewing area primary employers using a vetted economic development survey and analysis tool since 2010. The 38-question, seven page survey is conducted face-to-face between primary employers and Lakeshore Advantage staff. The goal of the survey is to identify growth challenges and opportunities as well as to identify significant issues across a broad base of primary employers that require increased support.

The report analysis shows the overall West Michigan economic climate is healthy with employers experiencing increasing sales and utility consumption. Of the companies surveyed, 78% have had increasing sales in the past year, and 72% of companies plan to expand within the next three years.

Seventy-six percent of companies surveyed are experiencing recruiting issues. Of those companies, the highest demand occupation categories include skilled labor production, engineers and unskilled labor.  Ottawa County currently has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 3.0% (May 2016) and recently was identified as the fastest growing county in Michigan by the U.S. Census Bureau.

”Our region is unique to any other in that we work together through mentoring and collaborating with businesses to ensure each one of us succeeds,” said Jim Vander Kolk, president and CEO of Royal Technologies. “We give back and invest what we can for the betterment of everyone involved.” 

To bridge the talent divide, 59% of employers are increasing training investment. Over the last three years, 78 companies in the region received more than three million dollars in Skilled Trade Training Funding grants. Lakeshore Advantage is working to create a K-12 high-demand career exploration program to raise awareness of career opportunities available locally with area students and teachers.

“Working with Lakeshore Advantage, we were able to better understand the gaps that exist between career prospects available locally and what we are teaching our students about industry in our region, and next steps to bridge the gaps,” said Dave Tebo, superintendent, Hamilton Community Schools. “Bringing relevancy to our classroom that allows our students to be employable has to be a key priority of educators.”

View full report here. 

Download images:


Page 1 of 41 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›