Supplier Summit held in Bay City helps match businesses with new vendors

The business of matchmaking was at the heart of an event this week in Downtown Bay City.

The Great Lakes Bay Supplier Summit brought hundreds of representatives from businesses throughout the region to the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Bay City on Mon., May 13.

Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC) at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), 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, partnered on the Great Lakes Bay Supplier Summit connecting Michigan based suppliers to procurement opportunities with private and public purchasing organizations located in Mid-Michigan.

The goal was to match buyers with suppliers so businesses have vendors to meet their needs. 

Greg LaMarr/Saginaw FutureJim Reaume, from Bay Future, moderated a panel discussing what procurement specialists are looking for from new vendors.Jim Reaume, Economic Development Manager for Bay Future, welcomed participants to the summit. Reaume said the event was to celebrate partnerships and provide opportunities for business growth. 

To reach that goal, the event included opportunities for small businesses to pick up tips, tricks, and tools for landing new contracts.

Reaume moderated a panel discussion explaining what governmental and private businesses look for from vendors and suppliers. 

The panelists discouraged cold calls, but encouraged businesses to ask for meetings with key players. They also strongly suggested that salespeople do their homework before those meetings, so they bring an understanding of the businesses needs. 

Greg LaMarr/Saginaw FutureDelena Spates-Allen, APEX Accelerator Director for Saginaw Future, highlighted free programs to help businesses in the region land federal and state government contracts.Delena Spates-Allen, APEX Accelerator Director for Saginaw Future, highlighted free programs to help businesses in the region land federal and state government contracts.

The Region 5 Saginaw Future APEX Accelerator serves Bay, Arenac, Isabella, Midland, Saginaw, Clare, Gladwin, and Gratiot counties. APEX funding comes from the U.S. Department of Defense, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and Saginaw Future.

Spates-Allen says APEX offers free help to businesses interested in learning how to land federal and state government contracts. Services include providing market research, explaining regulations, and conducting training seminars and events.

“It’s our job to help businesses do business with the federal, state, and local government, but more importantly to contribute to the economic development of the State of Michigan by allowing you to be able to win contracts so you’re able to make money for your business, but also to be able to create jobs,” Spates-Allen says.

Ideally, the new jobs pay good wages and include health benefits, Spates-Allen says. 

The program has its roots in the U.S. Department of Defense. 

“Why are we here? We’re here to increase the defense industrial base, which is the worldwide industrial complex,” Spates-Allen says.

She explained that 70% of the Department of Defense suppliers are small businesses. Right now, many small businesses are closing.

“If the DOD does not work to decrease this decline, the industry base that equips our military will weaken. We must be prepared for our adversaries. That is so important.”

APEX Accelerator exists to help small businesses compete in the marketplace and sign government contracts. She also stressed that APEX helps small businesses with all government contracts, not just federal and not just for the Department of Defense.

Photo courtesy of Bay Future Inc.“We are the first line of defense for businesses who want to do business with the federal government,” she says.

Jordan Dickinson, Labor-Industry Liaison in the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chain, explained efforts to create high-quality, good-paying jobs in the nation.

“The Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chain (MESC) office is brand new. It’s a little over 2 years old. We’re still learning to walk a little bit,” Dickinson says.

“We are working to eliminate vulnerabilities in our energy supply chain. Maybe you’ve heard of a shortage of distribution transformers. Maybe you’ve actually been affected when you couldn’t get your power as quickly as you wanted to. We’re working to fix that challenge, to make sure that we take manufacturing from overseas and bring it back to America.”

Specifically, the MESC is studying the supply chain and identifying the vulnerabilities. “Where do we make investments and how do we fix that?”

The MESC also is concerned about training workers with the skills needed for the future.

Currently, the MESC has 71 projects nationally. 

“We’re just getting started,” Dickinson says. “We have a lot of stuff coming down the pipeline, a lot of investments for Michigan, I’m thinking in the future.”

Currently, the MESC has $52 million invested in Michigan.

“I expect this number to grow exponentially as we continue to roll out our programs,” he says.
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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