Kalamazoo Runs on All Kinds of Business Energy

By Michaela Jackson on June 22, 2011 at 4:19 pm EST


When it comes to the economy of Kalamazoo, diversity is the name of the game.

Many midsize towns would be thrilled to claim more than one prominent industry, but Kalamazoo supports dozens.

Anchoring the roster is pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Corporation, the city’s largest employer. Pfizer acquired the century-old Pharmacia and Upjohn Company in downtown Kalamazoo and now maintains offices, research labs and manufacturing facilities in the city.

Manufacturing is in big business in Kalamazoo, sprawling past the pharmaceutical industry to automotive parts, paper and guitars. All told, there are more than 350 diversified manufacturing firms in the city.

Situated roughly two hours from Detroit, Kalamazoo is home to companies that manufacture automotive testing equipment and hydraulic systems. Eaton Corporation’s North American truck component headquarters and Checker Motors also call the city home.

Kalamazoo was a center of paper manufacturing in that industry’s heyday, and, though production has diminished significantly, companies such as the James River Corporation ensure that paper products are still a major export for the area.

Guitars are also a prominent moneymaker for the area with companies like Dean Markley, which makes guitar strings under the name American Winding Company.

In addition to manufacturing, agriculture is also a major player in Kalamazoo’s economy. The region is a producer of fruit, flowers, peppermint and vegetables such as celery. Additionally, many local businesses support the agriculture industry, such as A.M. Todd, which supplies specialty mint oils and flavors and ingredients that enhance health and wellness.

Western Michigan University’s Business Technology and Research Park and the Davis Creek Business Park support the white-collared side of Kalamazoo’s economy, playing host to the thriving engineering, information and sustainability sectors.

Inside and outside, high tech and low tech, suit coats and lab coats: Kalamazoo’s employers run the gamut. After all, you can’t spell Kalamazoo without “a-z.”

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