Photo by Terry King, FunFlashPhoto.com
Article by Dion Mindykowski

If recent news reports are to be believed, young professionals have all but abandoned the Great Lakes Bay Area, and on Wednesday, July 15, 2009 two hundred of them boarded a boat and headed north out of Bay City.  Rather than confirm the idea of a mass exodus, however, this voyage disproved it, as all passengers were taking part in an event organized by Energize, a young professionals' network created by Bay Future, Inc. and the Bay City Chamber of Commerce. 

Three weeks after the Energize boat tour, Midland Street Jacks Grill and Lounge was filled with members of Bay City After 6, "a Tri-City social network with a civic conscience, providing a venue for professionals of all ages to connect."  This meet-up was the group’s fifth monthly event, and the room full of photographers, teachers, reporters, politicians, designers, consultants, and others was evidence that many highly skilled individuals still make this area their home.

While most Energize events focus on professional development, the boat tour placed emphasis on networking and socializing.  Despite a weather forecast calling for thunderstorms, a warm, sunny evening welcomed attendees, as they donned name tags and boarded the Princess Wenonah excursion vessel.  Once aboard they enjoyed a full spread of hors d'oeuvres, music by Andy Reed, and a beautiful view of the Saginaw River and Bay.  The tour lasted three hours, giving all aboard a chance to make new contacts and catch up with existing friends. 

Making connections was also a top priority at the Bay City After 6 meet-up that took place on Wednesday, August 5.  Those present gathered in small groups and introduced themselves, an especially important step given the organization’s "no name tag networking" philosophy.  One of the topics of conversation that frequently came up was a forthcoming fundraising event in which Bay City After 6 members would be working a concession stand at a Great Lakes Loons game to benefit Habitat for Humanity.  

With Energize events scheduled  for every other month—the most recent being the September 16 luncheon titled "Networking in the 21st Century"—and Bay City After 6 meet-ups scheduled the first Wednesday of every month, there are many opportunities for those interested in taking part.  Both groups cater to individuals 21 and older.  A three-year Energize membership costs $30, and while you do not need to be a member to attend events, Energize members receive a discount on the price of admission, along with a subscription to the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce newsletter.  Unlike Energize, Bay City After 6 does not require a membership fee and its events are free to attend.

Future Events

Additional information about Energize can be found at http://www.energizebayarea.com. "Community Give Back" will take place at The Grand Banquet & Conference Center (660 W. Hampton Rd., Essexville at noon on November 18th, with registration beginning at 11:30 a.m.  An RSVP is required and can be done via the Energize website or by calling the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce at (989) 893-4567.  Wendy Dore, CEO of Doreable Entertainment, will be the guest speaker.  The cost to Energize members will be $15, while non-members will pay $20.  Those attending will also have a chance to network.  Magen Trask, Economic Development Specialist at Bay Future, Inc. and the driving force behind Energize has received positive feedback regarding the organization's use of assigned seating.  This method affords the young professionals present the opportunity to meet "up to seven new people" during the course of the luncheon.

The Bay City After 6 website is located at  http://baycityafter6.wordpress.com. There you will find recaps and pictures of past events, as well as information about future events and community service opportunities.  The next event is scheduled for Wednesday, October 7 at Midland Street Jacks (605 E. Midland St., Bay City) and will feature free pizza courtesy of Brooklyn Boyz, beer and cocktail specials, door prizes, and live music.  Bay City After 6 meet-ups run from 6 – 9 p.m., but attendees are welcome to arrive early and stay late. 

While Energize and Bay City After 6 vary slightly in their methods, the goal of each group compliments that of the other. The mission of Energize is to "attract, engage, and retain young professionals in the greater Bay Area" and Bay City After 6 co-founder Shawn MacDonald emphasizes that the aim of his organization is to make the area "a better place to live, work, and play."  Both groups offer ample opportunities to build skills, make contacts, and participate in community service activities.

© Dion Mindykowsky, 2009