Bay Future celebrates businesses that invested $350 million in Bay County in 2023

Private and public sector leaders gathered together on Wed., April 17 to celebrate that businesses invested $350 million in Bay County in 2023.

Bay Future Inc., the economic development agency in the county, held its Annual Meeting at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Downtown Bay City.

During the lunch meeting, area businesses were honored for their investments in the community.

“We’re here to celebrate the economic development successes that have happened in Bay County in 2023 and recognize the contributions of the companies who made it happen,” said Magen Samyn, Bay Area Chamber of Commerce CEO and President in her opening remarks. Samyn also is the 2024 Chair of the Bay Future Board of Directors.

Rob Clark, the 2023 Chair of Bay Future Board of Directors, also cited cooperation as one of the keys to recent successes.

“As a team, we accomplished great things and have set the stage for an even brighter future as we continue to help businesses grow, attract new investments, and most importantly build relationships inside and outside of our community that help move the needle in positive directions for all those involved,” Clark said.

A 2023 highlight video showcased some of the companies that invested in the community recently. Highlighted companies included:

Tri-City Brewing expanded its footprint at 3170 Shrestha Drive in Bangor Township. The $282,000 expansion included a year-round pavilion and classic beer garden. Read about the project in this June 8 article in Route Bay City.

In 2023, Standish-based Vantage Plastics announced an expansion into Bay County, investing millions into an existing building and creating 93 jobs. (Photo courtesy of Vantage Plastics)Vantage Plastics, based in Standish, expanded into a Bangor Township building, creating 93 jobs. The $31 million project transformed a long-empty building on Wilder Road. Read more about the project in this Aug. 10 article in Route Bay City.

Bay Professional Building renovated the old Allen Medical Building at 200 S. Wenona St. on Bay City’s West Side, making room for offices, Replenish juice bar, Blossom Into Health Chiropractic, and Sanctuary Yoga.

Bay Carbon Inc. built a new, 10,000-square-foot building in the space next to its 800 Marquette Ave. facility. The $1.6 million investment was expected to create 20 new jobs. Read more about the project in this Aug. 10 article in Route Bay City.

Kevin Peil started Tri-City Brewing Co. in 2007 from his garage. The business has expanded multiple times since then. “If that doesn’t get you excited about economic development and how it is transforming this community, I don’t know what will,” Clark said after the video.

Next, Clark called several organizations to the front of the room to accept awards for economic investments in 2023.

The companies honored included: Bay Carbon, Future Technologies, General Motors Propulsion Systems, Gougeon Brothers, Mersen USA, NorthPoint Development, Tri-City Brewing, Uptown Drive Development, Vantage Plastics, and Woodworth Commercial.

Together, those companies invested $350 million in Bay County in 2023.

The keynote speaker for the event was Neil Juhnke, President and CEO of Michigan Sugar. 

Juhnke, who moved to the area just over a year ago, said he and his family have been warmly welcomed into the community.

“Being a newcomer here, I have some different perspectives that I’d like to share with you,” said Juhnke, who lived in Minnesota and North Dakota before moving to Michigan. 

“There’s a saying “Minnesota nice,’ that means everybody is so nice in Minnesota, but Michigan has us beat. You folks in the community here, as we’ve gotten to know folks, worked with contractors, bought a house … this is a really friendly community. There’s just a whole lot of ways this community is very friendly, very welcoming, and I appreciate that.”

Michigan Sugar Company President and CEO Neil Juhnke, left, with now-retired Michigan Sugar Company President and CEO Mark Flegenheimer. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Sugar)He also said when he travels through Michigan and meets people, they tell him they know Bay City has “the fun spot.”

However, Juhnke also acknowledged the region is facing challenges. The population is shrinking here. He challenged everyone in the room to reverse that trend. 

“I’m rooting for us,” Juhnke said.

He went on to talk about Michigan Sugar’s latest investment in a desugarization facility in Monitor Township. Click here to read an Aug. 26, 2021 article in Route Bay City about the announcement of the project.

Graphic courtesy of Michigan Sugar Co.Juhnke said the desugarization facility ramps up the plant’s production without planting any more acres with sugar beets. 

“This project enables us to produce an additional 80 million pounds of sugar from the beets that we already grow,” he said. “We don’t need to grow a single additional acre of sugar beets to produce more sugar. It has a huge sustainability impact on our industry. It’s the biggest technological advancement in the sugar industry in 50 years.”

Michigan Sugar is owned by a cooperative of more than 850 farmer owners who plant 142,000 acres of sugar beets, generating more than a billion pounds of sugar. 

Annual wages for Michigan Sugar add up to over $75 million. Estimates place the factory’s direct economic impact at $600 million. The desugarization facility should be up and running in May, increasing the economic impact of the factory by millions of dollars, he said.

Next for Bay Future is the Great Lakes Bay Supplier Summit, which takes place from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Mon., May 13 at the Doubletree in Downtown Bay City.

The regional event connects Michigan-based suppliers to procurement opportunities with private and public purchasing organizations in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC), and a regional economic development partnership group including Bay Future, Greater Gratiot Development, Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance, Middle Michigan Development Corporation, Midland Business Alliance, and Saginaw Future, are working together to produce the Supplier Summit.
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Read more articles by Kathy Roberts.

Kathy Roberts, a graduate of Central Michigan University, moved to Bay City in 1987 to start a career in the newspaper industry. She was a reporter and editor at the Bay City Times for 15 years before leaving to work at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Covenant HealthCare, and Ohno Design. In 2019, she returned to her storytelling roots as the Managing Editor of Route Bay City. When she’s not editing or writing stories, you can find her reading books, knitting, or visiting the bars of Bay County. You can reach Kathy at