The Grand Rapids region has added more than 3,000 technology-sector jobs since 2021, a sign of “really good momentum” as local leaders work toward goals laid out a year ago under a 10-year tech strategy.
Economic development officials on Wednesday released a progress report one year after debuting the 10-year tech strategy aimed at positioning Grand Rapids as a Midwest tech hub. The Right Place Inc. shared the first of several planned annual progress reports highlighting job growth, new partnerships and other updates for the greater Grand Rapids area’s technology sector.
The strategy announced last September set a goal for 20,000 new tech jobs in Grand Rapids over the next decade, bringing tech to 10% of all regional employment.
Officials say they hope to keep building on the progress outlined in this year’s report.
“(We’ve had), I think, really good momentum,” said Randy Thelen, president and CEO of The Right Place. “Now the key, of course, with momentum is that we’ve got to keep it going. That’s where our attention is.”
Keep up with all things West Michigan business. Sign up for our free newsletters today.
According to the progress report, 3,352 tech jobs have been added in the region since 2021, against the goal of 20,000 new jobs. Since 2022 through August, the number of people working in new tech jobs has increased from 37,816 to 38,721.
“When we started the tech strategy about two years ago, we surveyed area businesses, and three out of four said they were looking to add tech employment,” Thelen told Crain’s Grand Rapids. “That’s starting to show itself in those numbers.”
The report also shows that tech job postings increased 82% between 2020 and 2022. The median advertised salary for those postings is $90,000.
The progress report also highlights insights from commercial real estate and investment firm CBRE, which indicate that Grand Rapids ranks seventh among emerging tech markets in North America and ranks third as an emerging market for high-tech job growth.
“We’re off to a fast start in terms of growing tech, and the vast majority of those tech jobs are created by our existing company base. That’s a strong signal that there’s a high degree of tech adoption across the region,” Thelen said. “You see that reflected in the job growth, you see that reflected in the job posting growth, and you also see it reflected in the CBRE study that recognized Grand Rapids as an emerging tech hub.”
Looking ahead, Thelen said continuing to grow the tech talent pipeline in the region remains a critical component and potential challenge with executing the strategy.
“The talent pipeline is something that is critical. We’ve got to find a way to increase the volume of people that are taking courses, that are pursuing degrees at our universities or that are taking courses or certifications towards tech employment,” Thelen said. “The demand is definitely higher … so getting labor supply to match up with that tech labor demand is a big deal.”
Thelen also noted the need to grow the availability of capital in the region. The report shows a higher volume of deals and higher amounts of capital raised in the years since 2019 compared to the 2014-2018 timeframe, but Thelen said he hopes that keeps growing.
“We’ve made good headway over the last five to 10 years, but we’ve got to get to another level and continue to look for ways to grow our seed, angel and venture capital availability,” he said.
Meanwhile, the second annual Tech Week in progress this week is a testament to collaboration within the local technology sector, Thelen said.
“This isn’t just The Right Place’s strategy — it’s a regional strategy, and everybody is finding their place within the plan and executing that,” Thelen said. “I think it’s a pretty powerful testament to the collaborative spirit of West Michigan.”
More from Crain’s Grand Rapids Business:
Bagel shop plans second location on Grand Rapids’ west side
Grand Rapids board approves $4.1M plan for grocery store, office on southwest side
Gentex announces second expansion to Grand Rapids with downtown tech hub
Staying current is easy with CGR’s news delivered straight to your inbox, free of charge. Click below to see everything we have to offer.
Crain’s Grand Rapids Business launched in 2023, bringing together MiBiz, the Grand Rapids Business Journal and Crain Communications to create the top source of business news, analysis and information in West Michigan.
161 Ottawa NW, Suite 173
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Crain’s Grand Rapids Jobs