Coming Home to economic opportunity


On Wednesday, Nov. 21, SVSU hosted more than 20 leading employers from the Great Lakes Bay Region to connect with area college students and young professionals at the first ever “Coming Home” event from Discover Great Lakes Bay.

The event was scheduled to coincide with the many students coming home for Thanksgiving.

Organizers aimed to encourage those students to live and work in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Students and alumni from Alma College, Central Michigan University, Davenport University, Mid Michigan College, Northwood University and SVSU were invited to attend.

Riley Hupfer, a program coordinator for Discover Great Lakes Bay and the assistant director for the Center for Community Engagement, was one of the organizers for this event.

“It’s great to see students and graduates from all seven of the different area colleges and universities come together to look for opportunities to live and work in the Great Lakes Bay Region,” Hupfer said. “I hope people find the region as an area of opportunity where they can work and settle their roots in.”

Upon arrival, attendees were invited to participate in a business-casual networking experience to meet some of the top regional employers, such as Covenant Health Care, The Dow Chemical Company, Nexteer Automotive and Rehmann.

“It was a great event that really gave a chance for students and people of the community to interact and find out what opportunities for employment and development are available,” said fourth-year marketing major Eric Sollund. “It in unfluenced me to further look into the future of my employment and life in the Great Lakes Bay Region. This is an expanding community that has great potential and amazing talent; the opportunities are prevalent.”

Jeff DeHaven, the president and CEO of Digital Mitten, was the featured speaker for the event, and he discussed why he chose to start his business in the Great Lakes Bay Region after growing up in Midland.

Digital Mitten is a social media marketing company based in downtown Saginaw that provides social media services and training to business all across the state of Michigan.

“When we opened Digital Mitten here in Saginaw, we were able to get a ton of media coverage right off the gate,” DeHaven said. “Small businesses don’t get that type of attention if they open up in big cities like Detroit. Having that media coverage and community support really helped (Digital Mitten) to get off the ground and have success.”

The event came about when Saginaw Future Inc., a Saginaw-based non-profit economic development program, heard concerns from local business about their struggles to recruit and retain young talent. Saginaw Future then hired Amy Cell, who owns her own talent consulting agency, to do a study on the issue. Her results then led to the formation of Discover Great Lakes Bay to provide events like Coming Home. The event also coincided with a statewide initiative called “Back 2 Michigan” to provide events like these at colleges and universities from cities like Houghton to Kalamazoo.

The event was supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Regional Prosperity Initiative 2018 Mini-Grant Program, administered by East Michigan Council of Governments, a federally designated development district for the 14 counties of East Central Michigan.

“I think (the Great Lakes Bay Region) is a wonderful place to be. It is an awesome area to start your career – there are job opportunities, affordable housing and more things to do than what you expect,” Hupfer said. “Whether it be the faith, culture or the nightlife, you have the opportunity to make this place your home and start a life here.”