8 Companies Play Growing Role in Northern Michigan Economy

Graceland Fruit

Founded on a quiet back road of Benzie County, back in 1973, Graceland Fruit has grown to become one of the world’s largest providers of infused dried fruit, like cherries, cranberries, and blueberries. This Northern Michigan company, still entirely in Benzie, now has two plants there and employs about 190 people, says Doug Rath, human resources manager. The company’s growth line leveled off in 2012, when 90 percent of the cherry crop in Northern Michigan failed following a freakishly early spring warm-up and then a hard frost that killed the too-early buds. To keep people employed and the cash flowing, Graceland rushed to bring in more cranberry business and, remarkably, did not lay off any workers.

Assuming spring 2013 is kinder to Northern Michigan fruit, Graceland should see a growth year. The company has two production lines, which are both operating near capacity, so growth strategies will focus on working to be more efficient, bringing some dormant equipment into production, and putting more product through those lines. Rath expects hiring to result as the company sees moderate but steady growth- possibly four to eight positions in 2013- and as longtime employees begin to retire in coming years. The company will be looking for people with problem-solving attitudes and mechanical aptitude.

Brian Nostrandt, Production (Hired: January 2013)

Maggie Shembarger, Production (Hired: February 2013)

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