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It's Time for Unity and Marketing "Renaissance River City"

Economic Development Takes on New Urgency as Area Faces Uncertain Times

December 31, 2002       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Slogan coined by former Bay City businessman Don Sherman was boosted in Times editorial

If there was ever a time for it, it's now.

"It" is unity. "It" is sending a strong message to the world through marketing. "It" is getting it all together.

That's what experienced economic developers and marketing experts are telling towns like Bay City that are struggling to find their identity in the new global technological age.

That we in Bay City receive the message loud and clear is even more vital as about a million Americans lost unemployment benefits last weekend, including thousands in Michigan and Bay County.

Lansing Mayor David Hollister was summoned here several weeks ago to give advice about how to keep, and perhaps expand, the auto industry in the Saginaw area. Before about only 100 persons at Saginaw Valley State University he pounded home his mantra: "Get it together, or get run over."

Hollister described how Lansing formed a coalition of business, management, labor, government and ordinary citizens to revitalize the local environment for growth. The success of the capital city has been confirmed with about $2 billion in investment by General Motors, preserving and saving thousands of jobs.

Besides Saginaw leaders, in the audience for the Hollister speech were several key players in Bay County economic development, banker Dominic Monastiere, leader of a new public-private coalition formed by County Executive Thomas L. Hickner,Acting City Manager Robert Belleman and Development Director Patti Stowell, and Bangor Township Supervisor Jeff Mayes.

Economically secure Midland was sparsely represented. But rumbles out of Wall Street about a possible move of the headquarters of The Dow Chemical Company out of Midland to New York or elsewhere may well have dictated the interest of Midland leaders in longterm economic development strategies as well.

The uncertain times have revived a call raised some time ago by former downtown Bay City businessman Donald Sherman for extensive marketing of Bay City based on the slogan:"Renaissance River City."

The slogan was used by former City Manager James Palenick, who, by the way, is still around, cares deeply about the future of the community and is being touted as a potential executive of the new economic development coalition.

Sherman, now a resident of West Palm Beach, Florida, is vehement about the need to increase marketing of the city. He maintains that success of the new hotel/conference center depends on a vigorous, widespread campaign to create awareness about the city. "And, the MARKETING and the word of this project must be formulated NOW, NOW, NOW!," emphasizes Sherman, adding: "Tomorrow is too late!"

Such enthusiasm indicates that even former Bay Cityans, down deep, have an emotional stake in the success of their old town. Extreme enthusiasm, as well as effective and extensive marketing, may be needed to overcome the naysayers who predict the center will fail to attract enough traffic to make the payments on the $35 million project and willquickly fall into bankruptcy.

"Muskegon people all talk up their town," says one observer of the development of that West Michigan community, so similar in some ways to Bay City. Muskegon also is an old lumber town remade into a heavy industry center which is using tourism as one economic vehicle for the 21st Century. Bay City is attempting to copy Muskegon, which has two ships on display, with the location of a U.S. Navy destroyer as a tourist attraction and educational tool.

"Renaissance River City" might provide a lot of currency in today's economic climate. Especially since the State of Michigan has established Renaissance zones for economic development in 23 locations around the state, including Saginaw, Clare and Tuscola counties,but none in Bay County.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation gave 17 awards last month for successful commercialization endeavors, seven going to the Ann Arbor area, five to the Detroit area, three to Kalamazoo, and two to Lansing. No company or individual north of Lansing was recognized. That is a message in itself.

It is no doubt time for marketing "Renaissance River City." Renaissance means "rebirth," and that is certainly what is needed for an old lumbering and industrial town seeking to remake itself.

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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