Kalamazoo provides many resources for those entering the workforce. Whether it is job training or assistance with the job hunt, Kalamazoo has the agencies to help their residents. The U.S. Census Quickfacts and the U.S. Department of Labor provide a quick snapshot of the employment landscape in the Kalamazoo area. Examples of the statistics provided are the current labor force and the unemployment rate.
According to the Michigan Department of Labor and Growth, Labor Market Information, the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan was 6.9% in January 2007. In December 2006, the unemployment rate in the City of Kalamazoo was 5.6%. Kalamazoo County’s unemployment rate was 5.2% in December 2006. Of the 6 counties in West Michigan (e.g., Kalamazoo, Van Buren, Allegan, Branch, Kent and Calhoun) Kalamazoo County had the lowest unemployment rate. Of the available workforce in Kalamazoo County (134,059) in December 2006, 127,151 people were employed and 6,908 were unemployed.
Kalamazoo has a diverse regional economy, anchored by regional employers in the pharmaceutical (Pfizer), health care product (Stryker Corp.), health services (Bronson and Borgess regional hospitals), banking (National City), and higher education (Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College) industries.
Employers in Kalamazoo reflect our community’s strength. Some organizations that employ more than 1,000 people are Western Michigan University (4,861), Pfizer (4,500), Borgess Medical Center (4,452), Bronson Methodist Hospital(3,962) and Kalamazoo Public Schools (2,500).
Kalamazoo’s workforce is as diverse as its economy, ranging from those skilled in manufacturing to research scientists. At the same time, enrollment in local universities and colleges exceeds 45,000 students, creating a base of potential employees that is highly attractive to business and industry.
The W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research researches and tracks unemployment facts based on historical trends and current conditions. The Institute publishes Business Outlook for West Michigan, a quarterly journal that analyzes and provides an economic forecast for West Michigan.
Kalamazoo supports business expansion through its tax abatement programs and policies. Businesses have invested over $148 million in real and personal property under Industrial Facilities Tax (IFT) Exemption Certificates during the last 12 years. The City of Kalamazoo utilizes a full range of economic development tools available to “core communities” in Michigan, such as Public Act 328 personal property tax exemptions, Single Business Tax credits for the redevelopment of Brownfield sites and the designation of 88 acres on five sites in the city as tax-exempt Renaissance Zones.
The City of Kalamazoo operates one of the most efficient and productive Brownfield Redevelopment programs in the Nation. Designated by the Unites States Environmental Protection Agency as a Brownfields Assessment Pilot Community, Kalamazoo has 38 Brownfield redevelopment projects completed or underway since 1996, representing more than $150 million in private investment and the creation or retention of 1,037-1,132 jobs.
The City has completed plans for redevelopment along the Kalamazoo River on the eastern edge of downtown using $2.9 million in state grant money for land acquisition and site preparation work leading to higher and better land uses, such as townhouses, unique commercial venues and public amenities designed to draw people to the waterfront.
A long-time cultural and commercial center for the region, Kalamazoo has made tremendous strides over the past decade to revitalize its central business district and downtown Kalamazoo has now become a dining and entertainment hub with much of the new activity occurring in restored historic buildings. The renovation of the United Building, the continued progress on Bronson Healthcare Group’s campus master plan and several smaller projects have resulted in the preservation of historic structures and creation of residential loft space.
The Radisson Plaza Hotel at Kalamazoo Center, located in the heart of downtown, celebrated the completion of its $40 million renovation, including a new façade, the addition of 71 rooms (including suites and long-term stay rooms), a new restaurant, and several upscale shops. Additionally, the $30 million Rave Motion Picture movie theater, parking ramp and retail/residential project is complete and open for business to patrons.
Other projects such as Arcadia Commons, the $50 million Bronson Hospital downtown campus expansion, the $33 million expansion of the Kalamazoo Gazette, the multi-million dollar demolition and reconstruction of the Park Building/Miller Canfield Building $12 million Transportation Center as well as the investment of $3.3 million to renovate existing downtown structures into entertainment and restaurant venues account for more than $450 million in total new investment downtown over the past 10 years.