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West Michigan jobs forecast upbeat

by Mark Brace
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
By Julia Bauer
The Grand Rapids Press

Employers in the Holland and Grand Rapids regions are among the most upbeat in the state, based on hiring forecasts by Manpower Inc.

While 7 percent of those surveyed in Holland forecast layoffs this fall, 38 percent expect to hire.

Around Grand Rapids, no employers forecast layoffs, and 23 percent said they expect to add jobs.

One busy spot in Grand Rapids is Pridgeon & Clay Inc., a longtime manufacturer of stamped metal parts for the auto industry. With 19 jobs listed in the help wanted ads, the company still is looking for more help.

"We're having a difficult time finding enough good workers," said Kevin Hutchings, a company spokesman.

The company employs more than 700 at its plant at 50 Cottage Grove St. SW. The firm is moving from a five-day work schedule to two mini-weeks, with two shifts running Monday through Thursday and two more Friday through Sunday.

"We have not slowed down," Hutchings said. "We've put on close to 200 people already."

The fourth-quarter forecast reflects better employer confidence, Manpower spokesman Joe Ross said. The previous quarter showed 17 percent of Grand Rapids area employers adding jobs and 3 percent cutting them.

A year ago, 20 percent of companies said they would add jobs, and 7 percent planned cutbacks.

The best prospects this fall are jobs in nondurable goods manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, finance and insurance, and other services. Manpower forecasts no change in hiring for construction, durable goods, transportation and education.

While Manpower looks ahead, analysts at the W.E. Upjohn Institute in Kalamazoo review the past. It has been a quiet summer on the employment front, according to George Erickcek, senior regional analyst for Upjohn.

With West Michigan unemployment ranging around 6 percent, other parameters measured by Upjohn worsened in the latest quarter. That portends a no-growth forecast for jobs.

The Grand Rapids region, including Kent, Allegan, Barry and Ionia counties, posted just a 0.2 percent job growth last quarter. Manufacturing was up a mite, by 0.1 percent, while construction was down slightly in a soft real estate market.

Other indicators were mixed. Help wanted ads were down 16 percent, and new home construction starts fell 27.6 percent. But new jobless claims fell, by 0.8 percent.

Ottawa County lost 900 jobs this summer, pushing overall employment down by 0.8 percent. Losses were in the service sector and construction. Manufacturing jobs edged up by 0.1 percent, but that meager growth was offset by 2.6 percent jobs lost in construction. The county's housing starts were off more than 43 percent in the past year.

On other fronts, Ottawa County's outlook also is trending toward glum, Upjohn said. Service jobs were off 1.8 percent, with 270 jobs lost in the leisure and hospitality sector. Retailers cut 2.5 percent of their work forces last quarter. The county's unemployment rate stands at 5.5 percent.

More condos coming downtown

by Mark Brace

GRAND RAPIDS -- Another eight condominiums are being planned for Monroe Center.

Virgin Soil Development is planning to build eight condos on the long-vacant second and third floors of 56 Monroe Center NW, which also houses XO Asian Cuisine.

With prices ranging from $139,900 to $159,000, The Brickway Residences will be among the lowest-cost condos downtown.

Brice Bossardet, owner of Virgin Soil, said there is a fertile market on the lower end of the condo market.

Less than one block away along Monroe Center, another developer is offering 16 units in the former Fox's Jewelers building, now dubbed Fox Lofts, for $139,900 to $189,900.

"I think if I had 50 of these, I could sell them," Bossardet said. "It's not really tremendously affordable, but when things are going for $250 per square foot, it makes it a lot more reasonable."

Bossardet, who lives in a condo on Monroe Center NW, is developing and selling higher-end condos across the street at the former Central Bank building, 65 Monroe Center, and on the upper floors of a series of buildings known as Front Row Condominiums.

Two of the 800-square-foot units planned already are reserved, he said. An addition to the weathered rear of the building expanded the second and third floors, while also rerouting XO's cooking exhaust above the building.

Bossardet plans a rooftop deck for residents. Some units facing the rear could get balconies, he said. A new elevator will be installed, along with energy-efficient wood windows.

Bossardet said he likely will seek a grant from the Downtown Development Authority's Building Reuse Incentive Program to help offset some costs for updating the building, which is more than 100 years old.

What you get for your real estate dollars

by Mark Brace

Real estate guru Barbara Corcoran compares the country’s housing prices

The wavering housing market sure is a hot topic these days, as it affects those looking to buy and sell across the country. And while there are deals to be had out there, what you get for your money still fluctuates a great deal — depending on where you live and what your community offers. Are you an urbanite or a suburban dweller?  Do you need a good school system or are cultural amenities top on your list?  It will make a big difference in the price of your home.

Real estate expert Barbara Corcoran highlights homes across the country to find the difference in dollars:

The best deals are obviously in the Midwest and the South ($173,000 and $186,000) and the worst deals are on the West Coast ($349,000) followed by the Northeast ($290,000). The properties listed below, which are all a value for the money, offer a good example of the wide range in property to dollar ratio across the country.

Under $300,000
1. Studio apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y., $292,000: It's tiny, only 400 square feet, but it's on a beautiful tree-lined block, steps from a city park with playgrounds, tennis courts and more. It's a great value for an up-and-coming neighborhood, surrounded by a stretch of great restaurants and a short train ride from Manhattan and all that it has to offer.

2. 4BR, 2 bath in East Grand Rapids, Mich., $279,000: Here's a classic colonial home in a wonderful private community. The school system is one of the best in the state and kids can ride their bikes to get ice cream without any worry. It's newly renovated, with 2600 square feet. That includes a wine cellar, exercise room, big kitchen, brick patio and more.

$500,000 - $550,000 range
3. 2BR, 2½ bath in Tucson, Ariz., $499,000: This Southwestern-style townhome is brand-spankin' new in a gated community surrounded by country clubs, golf courses and endless sunshine.

4. 4BR, 3 bath on 11½ acres in Decatur, Ala., $539,000: You get a lot of land and a lot of house — 3800 square feet. The property comes with its own pond and a screened-in pool and patio. It also has a huge kitchen with two big pantries. And even with all that property, it's just minutes from town.

What you get for a million dollars
5. 1BR, 1 bath in Malibu, Calif., $979,000: Here you're buying location — and it's a good one. This home sits on a third of an acre on top of a mountain with beautiful California views. The school system is excellent, with some of the highest SAT scores in the country.

6. 5BR, 5½ bath in Raleigh, N.C., $1,170,000: This is a real Forrest Gump-style big Georgian mansion. It has a rambling 6000 square feet on five wooded acres. There's the 3-level deck, a 2-story great room, and a gourmet kitchen that would make any cook proud. It's also in a very temperate climate with one of the most neighbor-friendly communities in the U.S.

Figure out what you really want and whether or not you're getting good value:
1. Make a short list of the three things most important to you: Is it the school system? Is it the space? Or is it the commute?

2. You need to understand that you can't get everything you want, but you can always get the three things that are most important to you. If you want a shorter commute you'll get a smaller house. But if you buy a smaller house, you'll pay lower taxes. If a great neighborhood is your top priority, you'll automatically get a great school system and that's great if you have kids.

3. Values are always personal, and it's no different with house buying. It's all out there. You've got to be clear about what's most important to you.

Displaying blog entries 1-3 of 3

Contact Information

Mark Brace, Realtor, ABR, GRI, CRS, SRES, e-PRO, A
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate
3000 East Beltline NE
Grand Rapids MI 49525
Direct: (616) 447-7025
Cell: (616) 540-7705
Fax: (616) 447-7025

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