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Posted on Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 5:45 a.m.

Five key observations on changes in Ann Arbor region's jobs market

By Nathan Bomey

Pfizer is gone. General Motors’ Willow Run plant is closed. Borders is contracting after its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in February.

Yes, the complexion of the Ann Arbor region’s top employers has shifted significantly in recent years.

Here are five key observations on changes in the area’s employment picture over the last five years, as found in TOP 50 EMPLOYERS 2011 Ann Arbor area.doc"> Business Review’s annual list of Washtenaw County’s Top 50 employers.


Borders now employs about 619 employees in Washtenaw County, down about 1,200 from its peak several years ago. files

1. The shift in book sales toward the Internet and e-readers is affecting the local economy in several ways.

Borders’ bankruptcy filing was a global example of the book industry’s contraction. The company now employs about 619 workers in Washtenaw County, down from 1,330 five years ago. But industry changes have hurt the area’s book printing sector, too. Chelsea-based Sheridan Books employs 350 workers, down from 430 five years ago; Scio Township-based Malloy Lithographing has 230 workers, down from 320; and Ann Arbor-based Edwards Brothers has 420 workers, down from 450.

2. Governmental funding cuts pose a risk to jobs.

The government’s role in Washtenaw County’s employment market is enormous. Eight of the region’s 10 biggest employers - comprising 68,947 employees - rely heavily on taxpayer dollars of some kind. If the Michigan Legislature approves something similar to the massive budget cuts proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder last month, the Ann Arbor region’s governmental entities may have to turn to job cuts to balance their budgets.

3. The region’s second largest private sector employer, Thomson Reuters, is also one of its quietest.

The company rarely discusses its 1,800-person workforce in Ann Arbor. However, that workforce is about to get bigger. The company is reportedly hiring lawyers to staff a new legal services unit to be established in Ann Arbor.

4. The health care sector has emerged as the region’s biggest and most important employer.

Plain and simple. The University of Michigan Health System alone employs more than 30 times as many workers in this area as Borders. The health care industry should be credited with ensuring the long-term stability of the Ann Arbor region’s employment market.

5. The auto industry is permanently smaller.

The auto industry has stabilized - finally - but it’ll never return to its position as the No. 1 driver of economic growth in Michigan. In Washtenaw County, GM's Willow Run plant and Automotive Components Holdings’ Ypsilanti plant were shuttered during the auto crisis. Additional cuts hit ACH’s Milan plant and numerous suppliers.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.



Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 7:42 p.m.

The "elder tax" will save government jobs. Let's double the tax on old people. They don't need the money anyway.

Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 7:26 p.m.

This is a really interesting list. I wonder how did you compile all of these companies? In the Word document's notes, it said that some companies would not respond to repeated calls. Would these represent large employers? I'm pretty surprised at this list, and frankly I think this holds the answer to why so many U of M grads leave the state. If you aren't a teacher or a nurse, then it's slim pickings.


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 6:20 p.m.

"but it'll never return to its position as the No. 1 driver of economic growth in Michigan." Really, when did it leave that spot? And if it isn't what is? I realize that here in Ann Arbor we are above all that greasy work, but I believe auto manufacturing is still number 1, unless tourism has surpassed it?


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 2:11 a.m.

1) Automotive 2) Agriculture 3) Tourism


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 5:34 p.m.

All interesting crytal balling, but, the businesses you list as the new players require college degrees of some sort and some experience. The 'old' economy's use of high school maybe's that spent their money locally is almost dried up. Those workers will not have the time, knack, or patience to retrain as 'new' school employees. So, importing workers from other states, markets and countries will be the price paid for the global economy. And, of course, Ann Arbor's famous interest, reputation and demand for 'foreign' products will be the price paid for its failure to recover to global standards. A few bright stars, but certainly not a uniform economic distribution.


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 2:34 p.m.

As the late Johnny Carson said in his Carnack skits; "Know one knows what the Great Carnack knows!" Unfortunately we do know....taxes will increase and/or services will decrease as more property goes to the classification of "Non-Profit". Folks, we are in trouble! We need serious growth in the area of private industry. We need to ask Gov. Snyder where the concept of "Free Enterprise Zones" stands and if/how Washtenaw County fits the profile to qualify?


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

The medical center is growing in importance as a regional employer. It has been providing construction jobs for years then adding skilled workers to fill up the new medical spaces but there is no parking. This needs to change.


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

The biggest change in the area is from a having a few large companies which support the economy into having a lot of smaller companies supporting the economy. This means that the residents and the local governments have to be MORE BUSINESS FREINDLY!

Kim Kachadoorian

Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

Nathan one HUGE change in Ann Arbor over the pas 5-years is the number of IT companies that are now calling Ann Arbor home and they are hiring! There are also a lot of opportunities for IT workers within a one hour drive from Ann Arbor.


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 12:25 p.m.

ACH - Automotive Components Holding is, and has always been, a jpint venture dodge by Ford and Ford's spinoff Visteon to eliminate selected plants and employees by going out of business. The first CEO, I don't recall his name, from Ford, of course, boasted at the announcement of ACH that it's success will be measured by how fast they can go out of business. How anyone can accept incorporation papers of a business whose mission is going out of business is one indication of how stupid the 'Brightest and Best business' minds are really are. Another example is from Visteon's first CEO, 'It's a scary world out when you're on your own.' or it's first president/COO and second CEO, 'Visteon is an 18 million dollar a year baby, and we're trying to find our way.' They found their way, all right, all the way to self-destruction and bankruptcy through gross incompetence and insipid leadership - never once turning a profit.


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 12:27 p.m.

Make that 18 billion dollar a year baby, not million.