Site Selection magazine
twitter linkedIn facebook email email email
From Site Selection magazine, September 2022

Paddle Power:

How a River Race Helps Build a Cleaner Michigan

Consumers Energy
by Ron Starner

uilding a cleaner state is a lot like rowing a boat with a team of partners. If everyone on the team is not working in unison, it’s going to take a lot longer to finish the race.

It’s fitting, then, that Consumers Energy —
Michigan’s largest energy provider — sponsors an annual rowing competition that symbolizes its long-range strategy: everyone pulling together to build a cleaner state.

Held annually over the last full weekend in July, the Consumers Energy Au Sable River Canoe Marathon is a 120-mile race that goes from Grayling to Oscoda. An international competition, the race showcases the natural beauty and recreational opportunities of Pure Michigan in the northern Lower Peninsula. Competing teams portage six of the company’s hydroelectric facilities along the river.

The 74th running of the marathon wrapped up recently and highlighted the importance of enhancing the sustainability of Michigan. A vertical banner at the start of the race encourages people to join Consumers Energy to “Become a Force of Change.”

Those aren’t just words from a big corporation. It’s been codified into practice and certified by the Michigan Public Service Commission. The pivotal regulatory decision came down June 23 as the MPSC approved Consumers Energy’s agreement with a diverse group of stakeholders on updates to its Clean Energy Plan. The plan is a 20-year blueprint to meet Michigan’s energy needs while protecting the environment for future generations.

The five pillars of the plan include retirement of all coal plants by 2025; ensuring systemwide reliability by purchasing a natural gas-fired plant and buying an additional 700 megawatts of electric capacity from a variety of sources; adding nearly 8,000 MW of solar power and achieving 550 MW of battery storage by 2040; and creating price stability to save customers an estimated $600 million through 2040.

One State, Many Partners

Michigan has a culture of innovation and a lifestyle that’s unlike any other — with low cost of living, high quality of life and strong partnerships merging to deliver on the full Michigan experience, whether work, home or play.

But don’t take our word for it. Listen to what the local partners have to say about their incredible areas of the state and current efforts around site readiness.

Randy Thelen, president and CEO of The Right Place, the economic development organization that serves Greater Grand Rapids, says that “for the past six months, we have put together a task force on site readiness. Consumers Energy has been a fantastic partner for us. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has put seed capital into this. We have looked at sites of 50 acres and above and also at what sites have access to talent. There is a long history of excellence in Western Michigan.”


Thelen notes that, ultimately, The Right Place wants to have five sites that are controlled, planned and ready for development within Greater Grand Rapids. “We just went through a wave of industrial growth,” he adds. “And our site readiness partners are helping us prepare for another. There is an energy pulsating from West Michigan that is felt throughout the Midwest. Our business and community leaders have set in motion an unprecedented level of growth and investment, cementing our place as a world-class center for advanced manufacturing, life science and medical devices, food processing and technology. We’re eager to get more sites ready to attract more businesses and talent.”

Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage in Zeeland, echoes that view. “Working in partnership with Consumers, we will identify large parcels of land and add infrastructure as needed to deliver more shovel-ready sites. Most of these sites are 100 acres or more, a good fit for industrial growth.”

Owens notes that “the biggest advantage of the site readiness partnership is that we’re all focused on the need to deliver speed to market. Most industrial companies, when they need to expand, need to do it right now. Having a shovel-ready site compresses the project timeline by six to 12 months.”

The work of Lakeshore Advantage was crucial in getting LG Energy Solutions to commit to a $1.7 billion investment into producing lithium-ion batteries in Holland in West Michigan. “They are a great partner. They are an extended member of our team. They are on call ready to support us.”

Consumers Energy Economic Development Director Valerie Christofferson shared, “We’re so thrilled to be part of #TeamMichigan. The strength of our partners and the fruits of our labor, including our new large economic development rate and continued momentum around site readiness, are amplifying our continued efforts to ensure we’re rowing in the same direction.”

This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of Consumers Energy. For more information, contact Valerie Christofferson at 616-648-2777 or On the web, go to

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.


Site Selection online is a worldwide service of Conway Data, Inc. ©1983-2024, all rights reserved. Data is from many sources and not warranted to be accurate or current. To unsubscribe from our print magazine, contact Julie Clarke. For general inquiries, visit our contact page. For technical inquiries contact the Webmaster.