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Strong signs of economic growth in southwest Michigan

STEVENSVILLE, Mich. -

A roundtable discussion was held at JR Automation in Stevensville on Friday to celebrate an upward trend in local economic development.

“We’re expanding our manufacturing floor space about 25,000 square feet,” said Bryan Jones, CEO of JR Automation. “We’re also doing renovations throughout the office area.”

You’ll find dancing robots, machines, and everything in between inside JR Automation's plant along Red Arrow Highway.

“We build the equipment that our customers use to manufacture their products,” said Jones.

The company is also building itself up.

It was announced in March that $1.9 million would be invested into the Stevensville plant and 60 new jobs would be created in the next three years.

“Cornerstone Alliance really has done a nice job in being the spokesperson and the glue, if you will,” said Jones.

At Friday’s roundtable, attendees included the men that pour the glue.

They’re the heads of southwest Michigan’s top economic development groups, and they organized the roundtable to celebrate the final day of the nationally-recognized Economic Development Week.

“We have had two years’ worth of activity in four months this year,” said Rob Cleveland, President and CEO of the Cornerstone Alliance.

Cleveland said the goal is to do the dirty work that will attract more businesses to the area like JR.

“It’s our job to make sure that workforce needs are handled and that they’re getting what they need from the local government, they’re getting what they need from us and from the state,” he said. “And we really are here to make that as easy and as efficient for those companies as possible.”

Friday’s event was also a chance to further collaborate.

The attendees said they recognize you at home may not know about your area’s economic development,

“We got to be able to tell our story better, all of us,” said Todd Gustafson, CEO of Kinexus. “It’s kind of like doing your homework and not turning it in.”

But success stories like JR – which has been in Stevensville since 1997 –make Economic Development Week worth celebrating.

“If it weren’t for our organization or organizations like ours, companies that wanted to locate in our community, companies that wanted to expand in our community, would find it to be a much more difficult task,” said Barkley Garrett, Executive Director of the Southwestern Michigan Growth Alliance.

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