- Strong downtowns — From Midland to Mt. Pleasant and from Bay City to Saginaw, the Great Lakes Bay region is full of bustling downtowns that are the commercial and cultural centers for some 600,000 people. Each city has its own unique character, offering distinct experiences of shopping, nightlife, entertainment and recreation. “There’s always things going on, something to do every weekend,” Miller said.
- Diverse places to live — Want to live by water? The Great Lakes Bay region has 77 miles of freshwater coastline. Prefer an urban skyline? A tree-lined suburban street? A country farmhouse? The region offers a variety of living opportunities. Miller and her boyfriend bought a foreclosure house, between where she works in Saginaw and where he works as a controls engineer for General Motors in Bay City, and renovated it. After only a year, they’ve already built equity into the house.
- Outdoor recreation — When Miller first moved to the region, she rented a house right on the Saginaw Valley Rail Trail that she biked all the time. “That was one of the first times that I thought this would be a really cool place to live,” she said. The region’s also full of hiking, snowmobiling and off-road vehicle trails through tens of thousands of acres of st
ate forests, has over 1,000 miles of rivers perfect for kayaking and canoeing and hundreds of lakes for fishing and boating including Lake Huron, the fourth largest lake on the planet.
- Large companies — Dow Chemical headquartered in Midland is one of the largest companies in the world, but it’s far from the only major employer in the Great Lakes Bay region. Fortune 500 company Lear Corp. has a presence here, and successful manufacturing and engineering firms such as Hemlock Semiconductor, Hutchinson Aerospace, Magline, Nexteer and Vantage Plastics operate across the region.
- Business friendly — Communities throughout the Region are prepared to help companies grow and locate new businesses. The Great Lakes Tech Park offers FREE pad-ready land for approved projects, with 148 acres available. It is an AT&T Fiber Ready Site, a designated Energy Ready Site by Consumers Energy and a Michigan Certified Business Park! The Region’s dynamic infrastructure, affordability and skilled workforce are ideal for advanced manufacturing. Interested in engineering, electronics and precision components? Then Tech Park occupants such as Fullerton Tool and Saginaw Control & Engineering may be a great fit for your career.
- Affordable place to live and play — With a cost of living below the national average, the Great Lakes Bay region offers affordable housing and commercial properties. For example, the median home value in Carrollton Township where Miller bought a house is just $65,000. Your paycheck goes a lot farther at the microbrewery here than it would many other places. “People are nice, plus it’s in the middle of everything in Michigan,” Miller said. “You can go to Detroit quickly, up to Traverse City, over to Ludington (on Lake Michigan). It’s still a fun place to stay home for the weekend as well.”
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For all the advantages of living and working in the Great Lakes Bay region, there remains a gap between the number of qualified professionals and the number of jobs that are available. That’s why area employers are teaming up to host a “Coming Home” mixer where young professionals can learn about the region and discover all the immediate and long-term opportunities that await them here.
The mixer is 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21, at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU). It’s free to attend. RSVP here.
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- It wasn’t until Miller, 24, began dating a student at SVSU that she ever visited the Great Lakes Bay region. A Goshen, Ind. native, Miller studied at Ball State University and earned a degree in urban planning and development.
But rather than start her career in a big city, Miller found exactly what she was after in Saginaw: an urban center small enough for her to make connections with community leaders and start making a difference right away. She landed a job in economic development and got involved with the DDA, which works to make downtown Saginaw a more vibrant place.
Momentum already was building in Saginaw before Miller arrived, with renovation of the former Saginaw News building into a new multi-purpose marketplace, construction of a downtown campus for Delta College and more. Her work has complemented that redevelopment, striving to make downtown more walkable with public spaces and plazas where people can gather.
“I really love community development and making places livable and fun to be in, that make you feel like you’re part of a community,” Miller said. “Saginaw, before I came, was already working on a lot of that, but I’m really happy that I’ve been able to be involved as much as I have here.”
Working in a city with a population of about 50,000 has enabled Miller to form relationships and get things done sooner than she’d be able to in a city of 500,000 or 5 million people.
“I think Saginaw’s about the perfect size, especially for what I do,” she said. “A lot of the companies are a lot smaller than you’ll find in large cities. It’s a lot easier to know the people in charge and make the moves you want.”
“You can accelerate your career by choosing to live here, not just in Saginaw but the whole Great Lakes Bay region. We’ve debated leaving to go back home (to Indiana), but if the opportunities keep coming to me the way they are we’ll be staying here.”
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