MMDC networking mixer hopes to draw ‘boomerangs’ back home and retain local grads

On Fri., Oct. 7, Middle Michigan Development Corporation (MMDC) and its partners invite young professionals from throughout the region, and beyond, to a Coming Home: Middle Michigan event in hopes of helping them make connections with businesses and corporations that could land them a job back in the area.

The 2022 Coming Home event will be held at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel near the football stadium. (Photo courtesy of Courtyard by Marriott)The 2022 event will be held at the Courtyard by Marriott right on Central Michigan University’s Campus, 2400 East Campus Drive, alongside Kelly/Shorts Football Stadium. This will be the first in-person event since 2019. Coming Home: Middle Michigan will run from 3-5 pm on Fri., Oct. 7 and CMU’s homecoming football game is on Sat., Oct. 8.

“This year we shifted the venue. We thought that given that it is so tied into homecoming and the alumni coming back, it would be a really great spot to try,” says Kati Mora, Vice President of MMDC.

Mora is also excited about the refined focus of this year’s event.

“Typically it’s a region-wide event. In region five there are eight counties: Saginaw, Midland, Bay, Arenac, Isabella, Clare, Gladwin and Gratiot counties. This year we are covering a smaller area. We are more focused on our CMU partnership and our Mid-Michigan College partnership, and we are focusing in on Isabella, Clare, and Gladwin counties. Gratiot County and Saginaw County will also be joining, so some Alma College focus and Saginaw Valley State University presence, too. We can be more targeted this way.”

The MMDC, an economic development organization dedicated to creating vibrant communities through programs that encourage talent attraction and retention, is keenly aware that it is essential to encourage the 26- to 40-year-old age group to re-visit the idea of building a career, and possibly a family, in a place they once lived. “Boomerangs" – young professionals who moved out of state for a time but are looking to come back – are one of the main targets of the event.

Kati Mora, Vice President of the Middle Michigan Development Corporation.“If you look at our population loss in the census, we are trying to look at the situation as an organization and actively think about ‘How do we change this?’ so that in 10 years we aren’t looking at a greater loss,” Mora says. 

With the 2020 census figures showing a large population drop for Isabella County, it will take creative problem-solving to turn things around. Between 2010 and 2020, Isabella County’s population dipped from 70,311 to 64,394.

Not only will the event encourage those who have left to come back to the area, it will also try to retain soon-to-be graduates from the local colleges and universities, especially those from some key focus areas, such as engineering, business, and healthcare, where employment gaps exist.

Mora explains, “We want to change the messaging for college graduates. You don’t have to leave. We want you here. There is a reason to stay, the community wants you here, and there is stuff to do.”

Jessie Stickler, Director of Communications for the MMDC, adds that some of the programming will be dedicated toward highlighting all that is happening in the region and what is available to job-seekers as young professionals versus college students. 

“There is a lot you didn’t see as a college student that is worth exploring,” Stickler says.

So how is Coming Home: Middle Michigan different from a job fair? 

For one, the format is centered more around networking than a traditional job fair. Prospective employees don’t need to come with a resume in hand; that type of paperwork would be submitted ahead of time. Furthermore, the atmosphere of the event is more casual and conversation based.

“You grab an appetizer and a drink and head to a high-top table where we have an employer stationed, and you just start having conversation and learn more about that organization that’s hiring. They (employers) get a feel for the individuals coming back. Hopefully it results in a hire directly as a result of that event, or even down the road,” says Mora.

The MMDC staff are dedicated to creating vibrant communities through programs that encourage talent attraction and retention. (Photo courtesy of MMDC)Those interested in attending should fill out the RSVP form and upload their resume in advance. A quick visit to the event’s Facebook page also provides details on attending employers and “boomerangs” who have already come back to the region and flourished.

Businesses interested in having a networking table at the event can sign up on the event website. While there is no cost for businesses, spots are limited.

Currently, a wide variety of employers will be represented, including Bandit Industries, East Jordan Plastics, Inc., Integrity Fab & Machine, Inc., Morley, Isabella Bank, McLaren Central Michigan, MyMichigan Health, and Hemlock Semiconductor, to name several.

If you have further questions about how to get involved with the event, you can contact the MMDC at (989) 772-2858 or by email at info@mmdc.org

Mora encourages those who have moved away, and those looking to establish themselves somewhere after college, to seriously consider the area, as she herself has come to love so much about raising her family here.

Mora says, “I love living and working in the Mt. Pleasant/Isabella County area for so many reasons, but primarily because there is so much for my family to enjoy doing right outside our door. From a quick walk to the park, to the memories we make on the river, to the energy the students and the campus of Central Michigan University bring, it provides the perfect pace of life for us. My husband and I also really like the school system and have found that it's been easy to get involved with local organizations and groups - something that might be harder to do in larger communities.”

 

Read more articles by Jennifer Veitengruber.

Jennifer Veitengruber has spent the last 13 years as a teacher in Bay City, Michigan. She earned her bachelor's degree from Saginaw Valley State University as a Secondary Education teacher with a major in English and minor in history. In 2019, she earned her master’s degree from SVSU as a K-12 Literacy Specialist. Currently, she is also a freelance writer for Route Bay City. She resides in Bangor Township with her husband, two daughters, and four Labradoodles; her son is currently stationed in Washington with the United States Army. Aside from writing, she enjoys traveling the beautiful state of Michigan, reading, hunting, and time with family and friends.