Bay Future sets ambitious five-year goal for economic growth across Bay County

Five years plus $2.5 million could add up to a $500 million investment in Bay County.

This week, community leaders announced a Bay Future: Drive. Forward. Campaign to create 800 new jobs in the community. If it works as planned, those jobs add up to a $500 million incapital investment, $50 million in annual pay, and $39.9 million in new annual consumer spending.

From left, Peter Shaheen, Trevor Keyes, and Clarence Sevillian II are leading a Bay Future campaign to drive Bay County forward.The work is needed. At a Wednesday afternoon luncheon, Bay County Executive Jim Barcia outlined the challenges the community has faced in recent years. He talked about a shrinking population and lost manufacturing jobs affecting the entire nation. Michigan and Bay County were particularly hard hit, Barcia said.

It’s not all bad news, though. Since 2015, Barcia said the population and jobs have re-bounded. To sustain the growth requires hard work. “We must not grow complacent,” Barcia said. “We will only move forward by supporting each other.”

The Bay Future: Drive. Forward Campaign hopes to raise $2.5 million to invest in providing that support to the community. The money will come from the private and public sector. Organizers hope to draw support from both small and large businesses.

Co-chairing the campaign are Clarence Sevillian II, the president and CEO of McLaren Bay Region, and Peter Shaheen, vice president of Shaheen Development. Shaheen admitted the fundraising goal is ambitious.

“The big question is can Bay City be successful in funding a program of this size? Of course it can and it must,” Shaheen said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Sevillian and Shaheen announced $1,339,225 has already been raised. “As you can appreciate, this puts Bay Future in a very strong position to be successful in our goal of raising $2.5 million,” Shaheen said. Campaign leaders will be approaching large and small businesses in the coming weeks to raise the rest of the money.

Sevillian echoed Shaheen’s optimism. “It is gratifying to know that so many of us share a larger vision for the future of Bay County,” Sevillian said. “A program can only succeed and work when good people are willing to team up and work together for success.”

Bay County Executive Jim Barcia outlines the challenges facing Bay County as it tries to grow its economy.Bay Future Inc. President and CEO Trevor Keyes outlined five tactics for using the $2.5 million to drive economic growth for the community.

  1. Existing businesses will create 80% to 90% of new jobs, so Bay Future will direct resources to support businesses in the community now. “We want to be supportive of their success and a resource to them for growing pains,” Keyes said. The campaign seeks to retain businesses here. It also needs to offer help to local entrepreneurs. “One of the largest corporations on the planet, Apple, was birthed in a garage,” Keyes pointed out.
  2. Bay County needs to attract new companies to the community. Other communities in the nation aggressively tout their benefits to corporations. “Someone must be marketing and selling the assets of Bay County as a good place to do business,” Keyes said. “Every day, that is the responsibility of Bay Future and our staff. We want to make it easy to locate here.”
  3. Hiring and retaining a skilled workforce is a key for every business. It’s not Bay Future’s job to educate workers. Instead, Keyes said Bay Future wants to support collaborations to help other agencies find and train workers. “Talent is more valuable to companies than any other tool,” Keyes said.
  4. Bay County must be “shovel ready” for new companies. Businesses seeking new locations often look for existing facilities and developed infrastructure. Last fall, Bay Future received a grant to get one site ready. Read about the site in Route Bay City. “That site in our own backyard is now being marked internationally and nationally,” Keyes said.
  5. To achieve success, Bay Future needs to lead efforts to communicate across the region. Leaders can learn from each other’s successes. Bay Future wants to be the agency to connect investors, municipalities, and other players in economic development.

“If we can do that, we can help provide a brighter future for our community and our residents,” Keyes said. “We believe we have the roadmap to be a positive force for change in Bay County.”