State of attraction: The focus on attraction, developing and retaining talent in the Great Lakes Bay

There is a company in in Ferndale, Washington that offers team members time in their workday to flyfish, rock-climb, and participate in a variety of other outdoor activities.

In Barcelona, the entire city has worked to rebrand itself as the city for business, talent and innovation.

Vermont has started the Remote Workers Program which offers $10,000 to those who want to keep their existing remote jobs and relocate to the Green Mountain State.

Even North Dakota has found itself among the top of the top in terms of recruitment. According to a recent survey “North Dakota ranks #1 among all states in the best states for young adults… due to the many opportunities for young adults in their diverse business community.”

But what exactly does “attraction, development and retention” mean? Why is the Great Lakes Bay Region focusing many of their efforts on these initiatives?

The Great Lakes Bay Region provides numerous opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

Attracting and retaining talent

Simply put, attraction, development and retention of talent is the focus of communities and businesses to bring talent into the area in order to help build a thriving economy and community. “Being a place where people want to live makes it much easier for employers to find the right fit when they have job openings, allowing them to flourish,” says Tony Stamas, President and CEO of the Midland Business Alliance. “This in turn leads to a vibrant community where people want to work and live. A win for everyone.”

“Attract, develop and retain talent means…looking at talent at every stage of development”, says Emily Lyons, Midland Business Alliance Director of Talent Attraction & Development. “The hottest topic in this space right now is definitely attracting qualified talent – but what do companies do once they have a great hire? It’s just as important for businesses to think about how they can help their employees grow and stay satisfied in their jobs as it is to find them in the first place.”

Emily Lyons, Midland Business Alliance Director of Talent Attraction & Development

Veronica Horn, President and CEO of the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce, sees it as a huge opportunity.

“This effort is a way to help young talent develop skills and find their passion for this region. We encourage networking with their peers and connect them with top business and community leaders throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region. People need to feel that they ‘belong’ to a community,” she says. “They want to get to know others that they will work with, attend church with or socialize with. We are helping to facilitate that.”

Why it is important
“When we ask businesses, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ the number one response is talent. Therefore, the MBA is currently working to survey local businesses and find out what their biggest concerns are in this space, as well as partnering with local entities who focus on specific pieces of attraction, development and retention – such as Great Lakes Bay Michigan WORKS! – to make sure we are connecting opportunities and local ideas with those already working in that space,” says Stamas.

Tony Stamas, President and CEO of the Midland Business Alliance

“No business can thrive without reliable, strong employees. Every city in the country is struggling with having enough qualified workers, so the region has to find a way to stand out. This means not only making our community an attractive place to do business, but also making sure the workers who already live here are productive, happy employees.”

Efforts of local Chambers of Commerce and business go hand-in-hand with the efforts at the municipal level.

Public art has been an effort in attachment to place in Downtown Mount Pleasant.

“The Great Lakes Bay Region must be an area of choice today and into the future. We need to be a place where businesses continue to thrive and grow. Having the right people, the right talent, to do this is key in our globally-connected economy,” says Director of Planning & Community Development, Grant Murschel.

“From the city’s perspective, making investments in amenities and elements that are desired by today’s workforce is important to retaining and extracting talent. Bikability, walkability, and close neighborhood connectivity are some of these elements that contribute to livability and making an area more attractive to newcomers as well as those who already reside,” Murschel says.

Taking action
Several area organizations have been leading the charge in regard to attracting and retaining talent.

Robin Zang (Trinseo), Tim Lacey (DuPont), Heather Gallegos (Dow), Diane Postler-Slattery (MidMichigan Health), Dave Midkiff (Corteva) and Dan Kaczynski (SK Saran) discuss the diverse business climate.

With a passion for community development, the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance set forth to “encourage, support and celebrate regional collaboration and initiatives that will improve the economic vitality and quality of life in the Great Lakes Bay Region.” They are focused on developing leaders that create awareness of products, services and lifestyle opportunities throughout the region and promote interest and desire in businesses.

“In Saginaw, the Chamber has a robust Young Professional’s Networks, providing networking, volunteer and career/personal development opportunities,” says Horn. We also encourage them to join the Leadership Saginaw County Program to expand even further, their depth of knowledge of our community.”

Tony Stamas speaking at a recent Chamber of Commerce event.

The Midland Business Alliance is working on several initiatives including a thriving MyPros (Midland Young Professionals) group, the Alliance Awards scholarships, POWER UP Women’s Leadership Conference, job shadowing opportunities with Northwood University’s international students, ‘Talent Talks’ videos interviewing local businesses about their struggles and solutions and a video showcasing all Midland has to offer. “We are also in the planning stages of offering support to businesses with things like onboarding, diversity and inclusion, supporting the Marshall Plan for Talent, and relocation support,” says Lyons.

Those efforts are matched with hard investment dollars as well. In Downtown Midland alone, over $61 million has been dedicated to new investments since 2014 helping drive new businesses, placemaking efforts, connectivity and much more.

Echoing that sentiment are the Bay City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce that offer programming specifically geared toward the up-and-comers, focusing on developing and retaining their talents.

Ryan Tarrant and the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce at the ribbon cutting for Costela Brazilian Steakhouse.

 “We are taking action to invest in transformative projects for the community to attract and retain a skilled workforce who want to live, work, play and grow in the Great Lakes Bay Region, says Ryan Tarrant president and CEO of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. “For example, we have added vibrant and walkable residential space in the Mill End Lofts, Times Lofts, Legacy Building and, most recently, the announcement of the next phase of Uptown.” 

“When you combine those with the additions with the ones we have made in the past year of MI Table, Bay City’s new farm to table restaurant, Costela Brazilian Steakhouse, Sushi Remix, Dry Dock Beer Garden and others, the city has become a destination for food and festivals,” Tarrant adds. “Leveraging the benefits of living in a vibrant, affordable community enables our employers to promote a quality of life that is competitive with anyone in the state.”

The Mill End Lofts in Bay City.

The effort is paying dividends for the region, with over $487 million in investments spread over 26 development expansion and attraction projects in Bay County alone.

Bay Future, Inc., along with the Prosperity Region 5 Economic Development Partners are in the second year of hosting Coming Home, a regional effort to attract young professionals back to the area. With that a website with resources branded and marketed as, has been created to provide information to those individuals and serve as a platform for that initiative.

The Uptown District in Bay City is one of the region’s recent investments, supporting business, services and nightlife.

“We know that talent and workforce development, attraction, and retention will be vital to the region’s talent retention and attraction efforts throughout our community,” says Trevor Keyes, President and CEO of Bay Future, Inc. “Between currently available jobs and the coming workforce needs with an aging population, we are deeply focused on skill building, attracting, and growing the workforce of tomorrow, today.

In that spirit, the partnership with Great Lakes Bay MI Works! continues to produce dividends for the community workforce shareholders and companies, specifically the Going PRO Talent Fund Grantand the upcoming first annual, MiCareerQuest Middle Michigan experiential career exploration event, aimed at creating a more robust talent pipeline in growing industries such as: Advanced Manufacturing, Agri-Business, Construction, Health Sciences and Information Technology.

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