The Bay County Growth Alliance (BCGA), Bay Future Inc., and the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce share united goals — helping local businesses and community projects reach their full potential. To better unify these goals, all three organizations now are operating under the same roof.
The Growth Alliance is relocating to 812 N. Water St., inside the Mill End Lofts building in Downtown Bay City. Already in the space are Bay Future Inc. and the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. Each of the three organizations plays an integral role in the development and expansion of local businesses and municipal projects.
The BCGA works toward “improving the economic climate in the Bay region,” says Growth Alliance Board President Chris Girard. “We do that through investing in quality of life opportunities or business loans to companies to help them grow their business.”
The Bay Area Chamber of Commerce’s primary focus is on advocating for, supporting, and promoting business interests in the area.
“Bay Future Inc. specializes in the economic development for the region,” Girard says. “Businesses that are looking to expand or locate to Bay County, reach out to Bay Future Inc.”
Each organization has its niche in bolstering the local area. This gives the community the opportunity to reach goals with the confidence of strong agencies backing them.
The three organizations have worked closely together and have collaborated on a multitude of projects.
“Economic development takes a team effort,” Girard says. “The idea of us being co-located with them helps with the team approach.”
Bay Future Inc. and the BCGA have shared space in the past. Trevor Keyes, president and chief executive officer of Bay Future Inc., is optimistic about having BCGA back in the same building.
“The BCGA previously spent years co-located with Bay Future Inc. at our previous location,” Keyes says. “After the Growth Alliance’s CEO retired and they no longer had full-time employees dedicated to the organization’s mission and vision, it was decided the organization’s mission, vision, and operations would be driven by their board of directors.
“After a few years of separation,” Keyes continues, “Bay Future Inc. reached out to the BCGA in an effort to solidify and strengthen the partnership, to benefit all Bay County businesses.”
The BCGA has traditionally handled the money and financing portion of the projects and has aided in developments such as the resurgence of the Mill End Lofts building.
“The Growth Alliance helped fund and loan monies for that building to be developed,” Girard says. “It was a project we helped co-fund, we’re actually in that space now.”
The BCGA has also helped fund the Dow Bay Area Family YMCA, 225 S. Washington Ave., and is currently working on improving the bandshell in downtown’s Wenonah Park.
“Formerly a strict revolving loan fund interested in participation loans on commercial business projects, the BCGA is now looking to expand and shift its focus to more unique and community-focused initiatives,” Keyes says.
Bay Future Inc., the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, and the BCGA have worked on projects together such as the “Buy Bay City” gift card program and “Pitch-a-Dream.”
“The past two years, ‘Pitch-a-Dream’ has engaged and supported more than 35 companies in this program and has awarded over $75,000 in cash and in-kind business resources,” Keyes says.
Alexa Sherman is the most recent winner of the “Pitch-a-Dream” program, having successfully opened her new lingerie business, Lex & Co., at 908 Washington Ave. during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Bay Future Inc. shifted its focus once the outbreak struck and small businesses needed help to survive.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Bay Future Inc. has pivoted our organization’s focus on highest needs in our community, specifically small business relief, grant writing and administration, application creation and disbursement, and grant awarding and reporting for more than five grants,” Keyes says. “Bay Future Inc. has been responsible for more than $2 million directly to supporting small businesses to help in their operations during the past six months.”