Michigan Enabling Resilience

Whether pivoting during the pandemic or fueling expansions, businesses found a friend in Michigan.
Perrigo was able to formulate, manufacture and donate over one million units of hand sanitizer to hospitals and first responders shortly after the pandemic started.

When Murray Kessler became CEO and president of Perrigo Company plc in late 2018, there was no question that he was going to overhaul a company whose growth had stalled. But there was no guarantee Kessler would try to reinvigorate the maker of self-care products in Michigan, despite the fact that the operation had been located in the state for more than 130 years.

Why he chose to build Perrigo’s new North American corporate headquarters in Grand Rapids instead of Chicago or other places is a vibrant illustration of how the state is winning as companies, the country and American citizens continue to relaunch the economy in the wake of the pandemic. “I was reluctant,” says Kessler, who had been a successful business leader on both coasts and was living in semiretirement in Florida. “I had never been to Michigan. But I ended up falling in love with the state and the people. We could have built the headquarters anywhere, but our team concluded we had everything we needed in terms of talent, diversity and the business climate right here.

“And MEDC [Michigan Economic Development Corporation] was the right organization to work with us. In fact, they’re helping us find people of like minds in exploring the possibility of building a ‘Silicon Valley’ of self-care in Grand Rapids.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and MEDC put together a strategic plan in 2019 aimed at building a more resilient economy. The fiveyear plan leverages Michigan’s culture of innovation, extensive R&D facilities, manufacturing expertise and high-tech talent.

“We developed our plan around focused industries where Michigan has competitive advantages,” said Mark Burton, president and CEO of MEDC. “We also renewed our commitment to empower economic growth throughout the entire state, from rural areas to urban cores and everywhere in between.”

As its response to companies’ needs and opportunities amid Covid-19 illustrated, MEDC itself is another arrow in Michigan’s quiver, heading an ecosystem that transcends major industry pillars and offers a comprehensive suite of programs and services to help companies fuel growth and connect them to the state’s highly skilled workforce.

When TentCraft, a maker of event marketing tents based in Traverse City, Michigan, saw its revenues plunge to nearly zero once the pandemic hit, CEO Matt Bulloch quickly pivoted to making medical structures that would help healthcare workers isolate patients for diagnosis and treatment. “We call them ‘medical partitions’—tents without a roof,” he says. “Right away, we were able to supply mobile infirmaries with drive-through screening tents. And we got a $75,000 grant from MEDC to help us retool, which was important because that award was very quick and even predated the federal governments Payroll Protection Program grants. Any glimmer of hope to keep going was important.”

The grants enabled manufacturers to retool nearly overnight and start making products that helped with the crisis, based on expertise they’d developed before. Trenton Forging relied on MEDC to help it achieve recognition as an essential manufacturer in the spring and connect the Tier 2 automotive supplier to marketing opportunities for its specialized metal components. “Other states tried to recruit us several years ago,” said Dane Moxlow, director of markets and innovation for the 52-year-old, family-owned outfit in Trenton, Michigan. “But we’ve got great people and great assets here in Michigan.” The company plans production lines with new materials that could boost its sales by about half over the next two years.

MEDC also pointed Calumet Electronics to state programs that helped the maker of printed circuit boards in Calumet, Michigan, ramp up production of its products for medical ventilators by nearly 40 percent when demand skyrocketed.

“Suddenly we had to pull in orders as rapidly as possible, even from 2021, for these components that we had been building for years,” said Rob Cooke, director of engineering services at Calumet. The company ended up shipping 40,000 circuit boards related to Covid-19 on demand, he said, “all asking for delivery in the March-April time frame. It nearly overwhelmed our factory floor.” Calumet is now planning to repurpose and expand its manufacturing capacity to meet rising demand for circuit boards.

“Michigan’s strengths in manufacturing, technology and the talent we have here positions us to be in CEOs’ decision-making for years to come,” says Burton.


MORE LIKE THIS

  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events

    Roundtable

    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)

     

    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.