Produce wholesalers in Michigan say the economy has rebounded in a big way from the dark days of 2009. ( Courtesy Rocky Produce )

Michigan’s economy has rebounded in a big way since the dark days of 2009, and produce distributors are enjoying the resurgence.

“People are comfortable spending money, and confident,” said Dominic Russo, buying and sales representative for Rocky Produce, Detroit.

“It is good for our retail customers and foodservice customers — there are people out and about, living life, and everybody is working hard and getting paid for it.”

Russo said the economic rebound is good for everybody.

“It is a great time for our country, it is a great time for being in Detroit, and we have so many good things going for us in rebuilding the city,” he said.

“We feel good about the business here in Detroit,” said Jeff Abrash, owner of Andrews Bros. Inc., Detroit.

“There is a strong base of independent retailers, and foodservice purveyors are finding new business as the economy and restaurant business has improved here,” he said.

However, Abrash said the improving economy has lowered the unemployment rate below 4% and made it harder to find workers.

“We are optimistic about business and future prospects (but) we continue to have a hard time finding adequate labor to meet our customers’ demands,” he said.

The Detroit Produce Terminal is a competitive market with good activity, Abrash said.

“The (terminal) is all occupied and it is a competitive place for people to source produce,” he said.

With Detroit bouncing back in a big way, Nate Stone, chief operating officer for Ben B. Schwartz & Sons Inc., Detroit, said the market has a great central location to get to the highway quickly.

“Whether it is the economy or the mindset of people trying to eat healthier, a combination of those things, it is really good time to be in the produce business,” Stone said.


Rising economic clout

Forbes ranked Michigan as the 28th best state for business in 2017, 21 spots higher than its 49th ranking in 2009.

The state ranks 11th best among U.S. states in economic climate in 2017, according to Forbes.

Michigan’s economy grew at 2.2% in 2016, better than the U.S. rate of 1.5%.

Still, because of the severe effect of the 2009 recession, the state lags in some measures compared to the U.S. average. The Michigan economy in 2016 was 2.7% higher than 2007, growing at one-fourth the rate of the overall U.S. economy since 2007.

Forbes said Michigan still has a few issues, including weak population growth and labor costs above the U.S. average.