Tony Stamas is the newly named President and CEO of the Midland Business Alliance. As a lifelong Midland resident, Stamas brings 30 years of expertise in business, government and advocacy at the local and state levels. Growing up in a local business – his family has owned Pizza Sam’s since 1960 – gives Stamas a unique and first-hand perspective on Midland’s business community.
Before taking this new role Stamas has served a variety of public service roles as Chief of Staff for the Senate Majority Leader, the Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs in the Michigan Department of Community Health, a State Representative (98th House District) and State Senator (36th Senate District). We caught up with Tony to discuss his plans for the Midland Business Alliance in the near future and what he thinks Midland can capitalize on most.
Q: Can you tell us more about what inspired you to pursue your new role as President and CEO of the Midland Business Alliance?
A: Well, I am a lifelong Midlander. I grew up here, and my family has had a restaurant here (Pizza Sam’s) for over 58 years. This is a community I have always felt is unique. There are opportunities to do things and be engaged at a level that really makes a difference. From a business perspective, Midland is the ‘City of Modern Explorers.’ I still think there that strong sense of innovation and opportunity. It’s a great fit, and what we have done here makes perfect sense. We can bring value to our members and partners, and it was an exciting opportunity.
Q: It sounds like you have a strong passion for Midland. What do you think our city is great at doing?
A: There are so many things Midland does well. I like to look at is as ‘how do we continue to not just grow but add value in our community’ – where I think there are lots of facets. From a business standpoint it’s ever changing, both locally and internationally. We see ideas coming out of here like the new Dow Michigan Operations Industrial Park (I-Park) and opportunities to partner with businesses located are right in our community, and we then look for ways to assist them.
We see a stream of new ideas here, and it’s we have experienced more of it over the past few years. There are people who have been committed for a long time here, and if you do your homework, you can really do some things that are unique. People look to Midland and see uniqueness on a lot of levels. That’s a big credit to this community. There’s a history and legacy, and also an open-ness about where we want to go as a community. How we can be proactive and impact where we go as a community is important to look at.
Q: To that end, what do you think Midland can work on?
A: I think we know the landscape, and we know it has changed. We are also trying to figure out where we want to go in the future. There are a lot of pieces to that like Downtown, Center City, Midtown, and the Mall corridor – these areas all have changing dynamics. With even the mall, we are being proactive and making sure we can continue to add value to that sector and look at broad perspectives of the community. We are facing challenges like many other cities, but our advantage is that we try and stay ahead of those. You can’t anticipate everything, but you can guide where you want to go. We are helping to do that by working with collaborative organizations, local foundations, city, county and surrounding townships to help do that.
Q: This position is a change, but certainly something you seem well-suited to. What can you tell us about your first few weeks leading the Midland Business Alliance?
A; We have really been focusing on four strategic elements – economic development, advocacy, talent, and innovation. Figuring out how we make sure we are on the leading edge in each of those areas, and the idea that the MBA has a lot of overlap in those sectors. We really need to make sure our advocacy voice is heard. When you look at these four things, they are interconnected. That was the vision of the MBA. We strive to continue doing what we already do well, but bring those efforts forward and strengthen the bond between them.
Q: The MBA has done some strategic planning, and is moving forward with a new structure. Will there be any large changes that affect the public and programming?
A: I think a lot of the offerings we have currently are things that people know and love. Like WakeUp! Midland, our quarterly luncheons, Business After Hours, and our economic development team. I think they will see more connection between these things, and we can now connect our resources to all sides of the organization. I don’t think the public will see dramatic changes, but they will see a greater value in the connections between the offerings we already have.
Q: What sort of exciting things does the MBA have planned for 2019?
A: We have our annual meeting coming up on February 7th, which will be a great kickoff for the MBA this year and the new integrations. It will be a great opportunity as we move forward as an alliance and celebrate the legacy of these different sections. There are more than 250 years combined of experience in these different arms of the MBA. We have Wakeup! Midland on Friday January 4th to start the new year, and there will also be therapy dogs there, which we know will be a big hit.
Q: That sounds like some great opportunities to learn more! On a personal note, what are some of your favorite things to do in Midland?
A: As a family, we love Dow Gardens, the new Whiting Forest and of course the Chippewa Nature Center. I grew up in the Bullock Creek area, so CNC has always been a favorite. The Midland Center for the Arts also has some great offerings. There is SO much to do here. We have recreation opportunities, sporting events, community gatherings and a great new downtown for festivals. There is always something going on, and it’s a lot of fun to see that sort of diversity and engage so many members of the community.