Q&A with Magen Samyn, President & CEO of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce

When Magen Samyn took over President & CEO of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce in July, she was already a familiar face in the community. She serves on numerous boards including Bay Future, the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance, and the Great Lakes Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau. She is a member of the Bay City Morning Rotary Club and co-founder of Energize - Bay Area Young Professional's Network. Prior to joining the Chamber, she was Regional Vice President, Marketing & Business Development at McLaren Bay Region, McLaren Caro Region, McLaren Central Michigan, McLaren Northern Michigan, and McLaren Thumb Region. Samyn also held the role of President & CEO of Bay Future, Inc., the private/public economic development corporation for Bay County. During her time at Bay Future, she had been involved in over $690 million in investment in the community.

In 2012, she was awarded “Woman to Watch” from the Great Lakes Bay Business Women Leaders Awards and was a RUBY Award recipient. In 2014, Magen received the Leadership Alumni Community Service Award.

Q: What inspired you to take on this role?

The Bay Area Chamber of Commerce has a long history of being a convener and advocate for issues facing the community, serving as an ambassador and liaison between business and other sectors with the goal to improve Bay County and the Great Lakes Bay Region. My passion has always been community involvement and this role allows me to live my passion every single day.  
I've been involved with the Chamber since 2005 when I participated in the Leadership Bay County program and learned so much about my hometown and gained several lifelong friends. Then I became a Chamber Ambassador for several years until we started the Bay Area Energize Young Professionals Network. I enjoyed serving as the first Energize Chair and working to grow the program to engage more young professionals in our community. I've also served on several other Chamber committees as well as the board of directors because I truly believe in the mission. I feel very lucky and honored to be serving in this position today. 
Q: What are your goals for your first year on the job?  
A: My first year will be a lot of listening and learning from our members, staff, and board of directors. The Chamber staff are incredibly knowledgeable, and I’ve learned so much from each of them already. They are doing a great job of welcoming and integrating me into this position and I love working with them. I have also already begun having conversations to better understand the challenges and issues facing our business community and seeing how the Chamber can assist in supporting them.  
Our board of directors also identified five priority areas of focus: Advocacy, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Educational Partnerships, Workforce Retention & Attraction, and Membership Engagement. We have several initiatives we are working on under each of those pillars including our largest current initiative of launching Hey, Bay City!  
Q: The Chamber has been working for several months on Hey, Bay City! Can you explain what that will look like and the timeline for it going live?  
A: Through the generous support of the City of Bay City and Bay County, we are utilizing ARPA funds to focus on workforce development which is one of the largest issues facing the business community. To support those challenges, we are working on the launch of our Talent Attraction and Retention initiative called Hey, Bay City! We hired two full-time individuals to focus on this program. Phil Eich is our Director of Marketing and Placemaking and Marlana Cork is our Director of Workforce Development, both individuals are incredibly dynamic and bring a wealth of knowledge in their respective positions. (Read a Q&A with Marlana Cork in this Sept. 29, 2022 article.)
We will be rolling out a new website that will serve as a destination for qualified employees, remote workers, and those looking for the quality of life and opportunities our county has to offer while also serving as a resource to connect both current and future residents with employers, resources, opportunities for work and investment. We are really excited to launch in January and know this is a long-term initiative.  
This program is also made possible through the support of McLaren Bay Region, Saginaw Valley State University, and Dow. We are also looking for other organizations who want to support this transformational initiative to ensure its sustainability long into the future. 

Q: How important are partnerships in the Chamber world? 
A: Partnerships are critical in all we do. Whether it is with our members, volunteers, local units of government, nonprofits, educational institutions, labor partners, economic development, regional chamber organizations, legislators, or the dozens of other partnerships we have, we know we can get more done by working together. The Chamber is a convener and collaborator, and it takes many pieces of the puzzle to put it all together. We are so grateful to have great partners working with us and look forward to working even closer together to support our community for years to come.

Q: What challenges is the community facing now and what is the Chamber doing to overcome them? What can businesses or individuals do to help the community overcome these challenges?  
A: Access to available workforce is the largest issue we've been hearing about and is why we are laser focused on our talent attraction and retention initiative. As part of that program, we can assist businesses looking for talent by connecting them with students. Businesses can participate by serving as a mentor, hosting high school or college co-ops and interns, participating in Rotary Vocational Day, conducting mock-job interviews, as well as other opportunities to meet with students who are in the career pipeline and by connecting with them early, we can show them why they should consider working in Bay County and the Great Lakes Bay Region rather than outside of our area.

Inflation is also a challenge and has increased the cost of doing business. The Chamber is a big advocate for shopping local and encourages our members to support other Chamber businesses. When we shop local, we support the businesses and entrepreneurs who also give back to the non-profit organizations and schools in our community with their time, talent and treasures.  

Q: What's one thing you wish people knew about the Chamber and its role in the community?  
A: The Chamber is amazing because of the people who are involved in it: the members, staff and board of directors. The positivity of everyone working together with a common goal of helping one another to better the community is where the magic happens. The best part is, we always have room for more members to join us.
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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 editor@RouteBayCity.com