A trio of Michigan companies has created the Michigan Winery & Vineyard Benchmark Program, a numbers-based system of data analysis which seeks to help wine producers understand the dynamics of labor costs and pricing. 
 
According to an article this past week by the Detroit Free Press, North Coast Ag Advisors, Farm Credit East and Greenstone Farm Credit Services are the trio of companies involved in the effort which, reporter Dan Nielsen wrote, is an attempt to elevate the Michigan wine industry. 
 
“It is modeled on an existing benchmarking program that serves winemakers in the northeast U.S.,” Nielsen wrote. “The new program should help each winery see how its labor costs, production efficiency and profitability compare with the state average. It can help business owners determine where they have the most opportunity for improvement.” 
 
Jim Casler, president of North Coast Ag Advisors, also gave a nod to California, Oregon and Washington.
 
“The West Coast has long had industry benchmark programs like this. Now is Michigan’s time,” he told Nielsen. “This program helps continue to launch Michigan forward as a world-class wine-producing region.” 
 
According to the story, the triumvirate is hoping at least one in five Michigan wineries will participate in the benchmarking program. 
“As the fourth-largest producer of grapes in the nation, it’s time for Michigan winery owners, the investment community and the industry at large to have access to Michigan-specific data to help best understand the industry and help it grow,” a zealous Tyson Lemon, vice president of GreenStone’s commercial lending department, said in the story.
 
According to the article, North Coast Ag Advisors will be the main contact for wineries and vineyard administration. 
 
“It will collect and analyze business data, conduct an annual conference and perform one-on-one review sessions with each participating winery and vineyard,” Nielsen wrote. 
 
Wineries who participate in the program will be entitled to an end-of-the-year report, North Coast’s Casler said, a luxury most wineries don’t have.
 
“The information in the annual report and the individualized follow-up analysis is not easy for the average winery owner to obtain,” he told Nielsen. “Since most of the 100-plus wineries in Michigan are privately owned, the information just isn’t out there like it would be if they were all public companies.” 
 
According to the story, wineries are eligible to participate based on the accuracy and thoroughness of the information they can provide about their business operations. 
 
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