BAY CITY, MI – A group of area leaders gathered online this week to present a plan to address economic recovery in Bay County following the coronavirus pandemic.
Bay Future, Inc. hosted its 2020 annual meeting on Wednesday, Sept 23. Members of the Bay Future Economic Recovery Task Force presented information about the ‘Bay Future: Drive. Forward. Strategic Action Plan’ which aims to set a roadmap for recovery of the Bay County economy in the next two years.
The original Bay Future plan was launched in 2019 as a five-year, $2.5 million campaign in hopes of adding jobs and investment to the Bay County area. The original plan focuses on the areas of helping existing businesses and entrepreneur development, new business recruitment and job growth, workforce development, marketing available “shovel ready” locations and sites, and promoting local and regional communication and collaboration.
But times have changed as the economic situation in the Bay County area has taken a turn south due to the pandemic, necessitating that Bay Future make adjustments to its plan.
“Needless to say, 2020 has brought with it many new and unprecedented challenges to our region,” said Bay County Executive Jim Barcia. “Extended business closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the economic and business landscape and has forced Bay Future to temporarily focus more on retaining existing jobs and businesses than on bringing new business and opportunities to the region.”
Barcia cited data sourced from Michigan Works, stating that the unemployment rate in Bay County in March before the pandemic was at 4.7% and that it shot up to 22% in April.
“This marks the highest unemployment rate in Bay County since these rates have been recorded. With a workforce of nearly 50,000 in Bay County, I believe this has likely affected over 11,000 people with many more at risk,” he said.
Now facing the economic challenges that lie ahead, Bay Future’s addendum to the original plan includes five tasks to help spur the region on through the post-pandemic recovery process:
1. Gathering local leaders to form a recovery taskforce.
2. Supporting small businesses.
3. Assisting the industries facing the most risks.
4. Partnering with agencies addressing workforce and job loss issues.
5. Supporting the wider economic environment.
“Our team at Bay Future has taken charge and has been a leading advocate for bringing dollars back into our community, as well as finding available funds locally to redistribute to those small businesses hurting the most,” said Kristen Wenzel, BFI 2020 Board Chairperson and Chief Operations Officer of Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works.
Dana Muscott, City Manager of Bay City, referenced the work that she’s seen being done in the community so far as area businesses work to recover from the economic hardships they’ve been facing from the pandemic, such as the organization’s work on getting substantial financial support for area businesses.
“In just 6 months, Bay Future has been able to advocate for and get commitments of over $2 million in direct capital support of business and industry since we’ve begun the Stay Home, Stay Safe order in March,” she said. “With additional financial support programs on the horizon, Bay Future will continue to advocate, apply, and collaborate with local, state, and federal partners to provide resources and support to Bay County companies.”
Muscott said that Bay Future surveyed over 350 businesses and offered financial support to nearly 100 during the Stay Home, Stay Safe order. On the industrial and manufacturing side of things, she noted Bay Future has worked to bring resources, best practices, and programs to 75 different manufacturers.
“These support and recovery efforts will need to be continued,” she said.
Local leaders expressed their confidence in the Bay County community as they gear up to take on the recovery process for the next couple years.
“I’m optimistic for the future, for Bay County and for the region. We are resilient and we are determined,” said Wenzel.
Muscott added, “I see our community being stronger than it was before this.”
A recording of the meeting can be viewed here.
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