Looking Back On Ten Years

On January 6, 2003, two guys started their jobs as presidents of chambers of commerce in two of northern Michigan's most dynamic cities. I was one; the other was Carlin Smith in Petoskey. What follows is a look back at the work I have watched my peer achieve. I reflect through this lens as it exemplifies the work for which I strive.

Carlin inspires his chamber colleagues every day. He is passionate about Petoskey. He promotes downtown and community events, serves as the Downtown Development Authority director, and represents Petoskey in Lansing and on the boards of the Michigan Chamber, the Michigan Association of Chamber Professionals, and numerous other endeavors.

He has had a hand in nearly every initiative in Petoskey since 2003, working weekends, early mornings and late evenings setting up tents, tables, booths, and other accoutrements to successful events. He has implemented dozens of ideas to boost business in Petoskey.

In 2005, Carlin joined another of our peers, Bill Tencza, president of the Cadillac Area Chamber, and me to create the Tri-Chamber Alliance. The idea was that northern Michigan's business issues were similar and we should join forces. The Tri-Chamber Alliance is now the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance with five more chambers including Alpena, Benzie County, Charlevoix, Gaylord and Marquette. It advocates in Lansing on behalf of 6,500 members with 50,000 employees.

Carlin is calm under pressure and pragmatic in his views. He considers all sides of an issue before weighing in. He is civil, respectful, and kind. That's not to say he's indecisive or weak – just the opposite. But there is a right way and a wrong way to conduct oneself, and Carlin consistently seeks the high road.

In 2012 the Petoskey chamber reached record membership, surpassing the 800 mark. In these times of competition for dollars, that's an extraordinary feat. It speaks well of the leadership of that chamber, including a board and staff on the same page.

Carlin is not an island among chamber leaders, however. Northern Michigan is blessed to have tremendous leadership in its top positions at each of the Alliance Chambers, but also in places like Leelanau County, Elk Rapids, Ludington, Manistee and dozens of others are working each day with two goals in mind – the same as Traverse City's – to grow business and build community.

Congratulations, Carlin, on 10 outstanding years at the helm of one of Michigan's truly bright chambers. I'm proud to share this milestone with you and I'm proud of the many accomplishments the Traverse City Area Chamber and community have achieved, as well, since 2003. The Traverse City Area Chamber will be highlighting these wins along with those of area businesses at the 2013 Annual Celebration in January.

Chambers of commerce provide unique value to the communities they serve. If your business is a member of one or more, pat yourself on the back for a smart business decision. If your business is not, please join your community's chamber; without our members we cease to exist.

Doug Luciani is president and CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.