2016 40Under40 – The region’s most influential professionals under age of 40
This issue marks an incredibly special milestone for the Traverse City Business News: It is the 10th anniversary of our annual list of the 40 most influential regional leaders under age 40.
The 2016 class is as exceptional as the first, from the winners’ drive and ideas to the time they unselfishly give to community groups to their knowledge on issues facing our region. What you don’t know about them might even surprise you! (Read below to find out who has broken more than 30 bones and who has a connection to the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel.)
This year’s list includes 20 first-time winners and several multiple-year recipients. After receiving a record 170-plus nominations from the community, a panel of judges reviewed the submissions and chose the 40 go-getters whose professional and community efforts during the past year had the most impact. The panel included Diana Fairbanks, executive director of public relations, marketing and communications at Northwestern Michigan College; K.K. Trucco, vice president of recruiting for Hagerty; Frank Siepker Jr., engineering & operations manager at Cherryland Electric Cooperative and a 2015 40Under40 winner; Gayle Neu, editor of the TCBN; Lynn Geiger, freelance writer/former editor of the TCBN; and Luke Haase, publisher of the TCBN.
Many thanks to Hagerty, this year’s signature sponsor, as well as the companies that donated goodies for the “swag bags” given to the winners at the Aug. 31 reception.
The TCBN will start collecting nominations next April for the 2017 40Under40. Watch for information in the TCBN and The Ticker starting next spring.
Assistant Vice President/Business Development Officer, First Community Bank, 29
Community involvement: Traverse City Young Professionals (TCYP); West Boardman Lake Trail Advisory Committee; City of Traverse City Coast Guard City Committee; Alma College Alumni board member; New Visions Academy volunteer speaker.
Highlight reel from last year: Completed the Leadership Grand Traverse program and presented to the New Visions Academy for delinquent youth about banking, credit, careers, taxes and personal finance. Served as marketing chair of the Traverse City Young Professionals. Assisted in planning process for the long-awaited design of the West Boardman Lake Trail. Assisted the Traverse City Coast Guard City Committee in gaining approval and funding (ongoing) for a monument to honor USCG Air Station Traverse City. As a proud Scot, was appointed as a member of the Alma College Alumni Board.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Traverse City is such as amazing place to live work and play! However, if you have ever met me you have probably heard me complain about missing my Tim Horton’s coffee.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Each year the TCYPers are flooded with new faces! We need places for them all to live. Workforce housing inventory is a huge need for the future of Grand Traverse County and surrounding areas. We will need the right developments, in the right areas and at the right price point, in order to keep growing.
My next big thing: Earn MBA from Davenport University in March of 2017 and hope to stay engaged in higher education through an adjunct professorship. Become more actively involved in coaching local athletics. Continue to assist TCYP leadership and chamber staff in launching an Advocacy Committee to help engage young professionals in local decision-making.
Who knew? I’m an avid outdoorsman who is addicted to bow hunting. I hunt with both compound and recurve bows and have started the process of making my own recurve bow with a drawknife and various hand tools.
Biggest fan: “Daniel has brought his intelligence and enthusiasm to our bank and community and has been a contributor since day one. His contagious efforts at our bank and community programs speak for themselves.” – Anthony Palumbo, First Community Bank
Owner, Events North and Put Your Phone Down!, 37
Community involvement: Rotary Charities trustee; Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board of directors; Traverse City Boom Boom Club vice- president; Downtown Traverse City Association (DTCA) board of directors; Impact 100 Traverse City co-president.
Highlight reel from last year: Working through the process with my fellow Rotary Charities trustees to become a community change agent and transforming the way we think about all we do. Being named “Godmother” of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce with Kevin Schlueter as the “Godfather!” Events North named Best Event Planner by Michigan Meetings & Events magazine. Being named to the 40 Under 40 list for Connect, a national magazine for meeting planners. Serving my first year on the DDA board. Participating through Rotary Charities in the former coal dock becoming Discovery Pier.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Affordable workforce housing. According to the recent DDA Downtown Corridor and Market Analysis, “… local labor force participation rates will likely decrease below 50 percent of the population if working-aged adults cannot afford housing. Target market analysis highlights the impact of insufficient workforce housing in the region, with generally more affluent retirees exerting a stronger influence over the local housing market.” We’re almost at the tipping point and action needs to take shape as soon as possible.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: See above.
My next big thing: I’m working with Diana Milock (and a team of amazing TC women) and we’re co-presidents of an Impact 100 Traverse City chapter for this region. Impact 100 is a transformational granting organization that grants $100,000 to one organization annually.
Who knew? I played lacrosse at Albion and was a founding member of the team. It was a club sport, but we played all of the major schools in the state. It’s a varsity sport now, but we bought our uniforms and paid for refs by returning beer bottles.
Biggest fan: “Allison Beers is one dynamic, resourceful, organized and intelligent business owner and community champion. If you were to make a list of the most successful events and organizations in Traverse City, I am certain you would find Allison Beers has played a role. Plus, she’s incredibly funny.” – Bonnie Alfonso, Alfie Logo Gear
Sales Manager, Ford Insurance Agency, 28
Community involvement: Rotary Club of Traverse Bay Twilight Club (Immediate Past President); National Cherry Festival (Warehouse and Distribution Director); Northwest Michigan College BBQ (Board Member); Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing (Board Member); March of Dimes (2017 Signature Chef Series Event Chair); Turkey Trot for Charities (Committee Member); Northwood University, Alumni Leadership Council Member, Northern Michigan Chapter Representative; Michigan Association of Insurance Agents; Michigan Cider Association.
Highlight reel from last year: My proudest work moment would have to be completing the Agribusiness and Farm Insurance Specialist designation. I’m one of a few agents throughout the entire state of Michigan that has achieved this designation. My proudest community moment was having the opportunity to serve as president of the Rotary Club of Traverse Bay Twilight.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: It would be nice to see new industries for job growth for young professionals. I also think additional graduate level education opportunities would be beneficial for people looking to expand their skill sets.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: An unclear direction on what our region wants to be. Are we going to be focused on creating a retirement community, a tourist designation, or a vibrant Midwest City with a balance of growth and sustainability?
My next big thing: I’m trying to figure that out right now. It’s definitely education-based. It could be another professional designation or a doctoral-level degree.
Who knew: Contrary to popular belief I don’t actually work for the National Cherry Festival…I’m just a long-time volunteer!
Biggest fan: “Garrett has been instrumental in the business development of our commercial lines at our agency…he brings new perspectives and is willing to research and implement new technologies and work flows to our organization. With his leadership, our sales are up across the board and our commercial team is concentrating on target markets: food industry, agribusiness, manufacturing, non-profits, and senior care facilities, with great success.” – David Ford, Ford Insurance Agency
Deputy Director, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, 34
Community involvement: Rotary Club of Traverse City; Michigan By Rail Coalition.
Highlight reel from last year: Raised the necessary local, state and federal grant funding to advance a major cross-state transportation study; promoted to Deputy Director of the Groundwork Center; presented at a major statewide transportation conference.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: …anything besides parking lots along the river downtown, and an agency dedicated to recruiting new businesses to the area.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: The lack of racial and cultural diversity threatens our region’s ability to attract and keep talent.
My next big thing: I’m excited to work with Stone Hut Studios and Jacob Wheeler on a storytelling campaign featuring young business leaders.
Who knew: My great, great, grand aunt-in-law is Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
Biggest fan: “James is one of those young professionals that exemplifies the meaning of community leadership and engagement. He is creative, collaborative, and clearly committed to our region’s future and as such gives me great hope for a bright future.” – Kim Pontius, Traverse Area Association of Realtors
Realtor, Coldwell Banker Schmidt, 28
Community involvement: Workwise, I am a board member for our local young professionals network. A few of the community organizations/events I have volunteered for in the past include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan, Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Bras for a Cause, Glen Lake Community School’s 8th Grade Career Day, Toys for Tots and the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.
Highlight reel from last year: Receiving the nomination for Coldwell Banker’s 30 Under 30 recognition for the second year in a row. It is such an honor being selected from 85,000 agents in 3,000 offices and 47 countries to be a part of a program set up to lead and shape the future of our changing industry. I was also featured in NBC’s “Open House” TV series (aired last month). I was voted a “Red Hot Best” Realtor by Traverse magazine & MyNorth Media. For the second year in a row, I earned a spot in the Coldwell Banker International Diamond Society, putting me in the top 11 percent of Coldwell Banker agents worldwide. Lastly, I was featured in Realtor’s Top Agent magazine as one of the ‘Up and Coming” Realtors in the Midwest.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Affordable housing, both for sale and for rent.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Right now it seems as if Traverse City is growing quickly. We must learn how to accommodate these changes to ensure Traverse City stays the town we all know and love.
My next big thing: There is a need to make more beaches, restaurants and hotels more dog-friendly. We are a dog-friendly town and I’d love for that to be more apparent.
Who knew? Before becoming a Realtor I was a part-time musician. I even traveled to Puerto Rico after I graduated from college for a few months to surf during the day and play guitar/sing in the evenings.
Biggest fan: “Weston’s success is a testament to his hard work, positive attitude toward his clients and toward the Realtor community. He is a good young man who deserves the success and accolades he is now receiving. We are very proud of him!” – Mike Schmidt, Coldwell Banker Schmidt Family of Companies
President, TentCraft, 36
Community involvement: TC Connect, Young President’s Organization (YPO), Front Street Irregulars, TC New Tech.
Highlight reel from last year: Our newest company, Gemba Marketing, is starting to take off!
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: A sit down Indian food restaurant, although the takeout Indian food from Deering’s on Barlow is a hidden gem.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Failure to allow increased density downtown.
My next big thing: Soon, TentCraft/Gemba will need to either build or buy/renovate a new building as we are continuing to outgrow our space.
Who knew? I was a wildland firefighter – think forest fires – for the U.S. Forest Service during my college summers.
Biggest fan: “Matt is a smart and passionate leader with an intensity rarely found anywhere! It’s not everyday that Stanford MBAs choose to live and work in Traverse City. In less than six years, he has created nearly 100 great jobs and he is just getting started! Go Matt!” – Paul Britten, Britten Studios
Vice President of Operations, Grand Traverse Band, LLC, 31
Highlight reel from last year: Launched three new businesses – Harpo’s Coffee, Forever-Cleare Water Solutions, and GTB Constructors – and gained federal contracting status for an existing company, RCA, LLC.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Housing that is affordable for the existing local workforce.
My next big thing: Lots of new ventures coming from Grand Traverse Band, LLC.
Biggest fan: “It has been such an honor working with Paul on GTB LLCs economic development strategies. Paul is such a hard-working individual with great ideas and passion for the future growth of our community.” – Laura Galbraith, Venture North Funding & Development
Vice President, Private Client Group, Huntington Bank, 37
Community involvement: Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan (board secretary); Michigan Legacy Art Park (board treasurer); Rotary Charities (finance & investment committee); Discovery Pier committee; Preserve Hickory capital campaign committee; Dan Scripps for State Representative (treasurer); TC Chamber government relations committee; City of Traverse City (officers compensation committee); TCNewTech.
Highlight reel from last year: I spearheaded the convening of an “advanced industry” leadership roundtable focused on igniting local economic development. At Huntington, I was selected to meet in-person with our chairman/CEO to discuss our market position and future outlook. At Goodwill, we hired a new CEO and new CFO, preparing the organization for the future. At Rotary Charities, we were able to secure the purchase and public opening of Discovery Pier (former Coal Dock), as well as create the Impact Investing Initiative.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Comprehensive economic development. We need to build a dynamic modern economy of higher-skill, higher-paying jobs in advanced industries, while addressing our housing needs and improving the technical training in our local education system.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Going in the wrong direction due to development pressure. We can have a future as a high-cost vacation and retirement destination where most people can’t afford to live and most jobs are low-paying service positions, or we can have a diverse economy that generates its own wealth and supports a sustainable middle-class community.
My next big thing: Bringing together the region’s technology, manufacturing and agriculture production companies (our advanced industries) to strengthen the parts of our local economy that export manufactured goods, intellectual services and agricultural products. Right now, our economy is centered on importing tourists and retirees, while we export our young people because of a lack of good jobs and housing. We can continue to be a great place to vacation and retire, but we need to do more to support advanced industries and provide jobs and housing for young people and families.
Who knew? Most of the important lessons for business, finance and management I learned selling cherry pies at the Cherry Hut in Beulah.
Biggest fan: “Warren makes it happen. Drive and glue in one package! A crisp, insightful thinker, he’s quick at summarizing the situation and opportunity … seeing the essence and heading in the best direction. A key player in driving our local economy to be ever more vibrant.” – Casey Cowell
Curator of Education, Dennos Museum Center, 34
Community involvement: Currently serving on the Traverse City Arts Commission; active with the Michigan Museum Association (will be a board member of the Michigan Museums Association)
Highlight Reel: In summer of 2015 I brought together a diverse mix of visual artists from around the world, along with local designers and skateboarders, to curate and present “Sideways: Exploring Skateboard Art + Culture” at the Dennos Museum Center. This collaborative approach to exhibition design is where the future of museums is heading and I was honored to work with so many local makers and risk takers. It also lead to my publishing a case study in MuseumsEtc this year. I was also very involved in bringing the exhibition “Not Ready to Make Nice: Guerrilla Girls in the Artworld and Beyond” to the Dennos, which highlighted the need for more representation of women and minority artists in institutions and galleries in our region. I was able to partner with Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology and Blackbird Arts to host a poster jam as one of the monthly Artist After Hours events, which allowed local students and art lovers to express their support for women and minority artists. These kinds of projects that empower other local organizations to participate with the Dennos represent my highest aspirations as an arts professional.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: We need more families moving to the region in order to support schools, colleges, and arts and culture. To ensure that families are able to move here, we need more housing options and employment opportunities that can support this growth.
Biggest risk/threat facing GT region in next five years: See above.
Biggest fan: “Having the opportunity to showcase your capacity for leadership and to achieve is one thing; actually doing it is another. Within six months of his being a member of the Dennos staff I saw in Jason someone who had the capacity to take on a greater leadership role within the Dennos and indeed statewide within the museum profession. I offered that opportunity to Jason at the Dennos and he has demonstrated the initiative and capacity to do so, building new and valuable relationships internally at NMC, as well as the Grand Traverse region for the museum. I have encouraged the Michigan Museums Association to look at him as a candidate for professional leadership in the Michigan Museums community and they have responded nominating him for a position on the Board of Directors with the upcoming conference in Detroit, after he had taken on numerous roles with the Association in recent years. I am confident he will continue to have a significant impact on the profession at the Dennos and statewide.” – Gene Jenneman, Dennos Museum Center
Director of Advancement at Goodwill Northern Michigan, 39
Community involvement: Volunteer and fundraiser for Traverse City Area Public Schools for the last five years. Every child deserves a quality education and as a parent to two awesome kids I want them to have all the opportunities I had growing up in this beautiful town, so I fundraise on a personal level to make that happen. I also like to give to The Dennos Museum, WNMC radio, IPR, Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center and Michael’s Place.
Highlight reel from last year: On a professional level, raising more than $700,000 for Goodwill Northern Michigan’s jobs, housing and food programs in the first eight months of being director of advancement. I love finding money for the most urgent needs in our community! On a personal level, competing in my first M-22 race.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Art and art educational opportunities. Art can inspire, break down barriers, bring someone therapy in a time of hardship, innovate and spark creativity and everybody can benefit from more of it.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: “Aspenization” of Traverse City. It means to become, or cause to become, tourist-oriented, especially in such a way as to grow unaffordable or unlivable for workers or native residents. As a Traverse City native, I firmly believe TC is not just for the affluent to raise their family, work and play… it’s for everybody!
My next big thing: I’m turning 40 next year and am going to conquer my fear of deep water by attending a surf camp in Hawaii.
Who knew? I am a huge Star Wars and James Bond movie aficionado. I pretty much know all lines from all the movies and enjoy speaking like Chewbacca with my kids.
Biggest fan: “Sarah is an inspiration to anyone 40 and under, or 40 and OVER, for that matter. She truly believes in what she is doing, whether trying to help save premature babies with the March of Dimes or helping people through Goodwill Northern Michigan. She is a dedicated person who also becomes a friend to everyone she meets. She is the genuine article.” – Kathy McFarren-Smith, Alpha Mail, Inc.
Airport Operations Supervisor, 32
Community involvement: Cherry Capital Airport K-9 (Editor’s note: After going ‘viral’ in early 2016, Brian and Piper, the Border Collie tasked with wildlife control at the airport, garnered national and international press, including USA Today, ABC News, NBC News, CNN, Fox News, The Weather Channel, Midwest Living, and Travel+Leisure, focusing millions of eyes on the community. Brian is Piper’s owner, trainer, photographer, and videographer. Brian and K-9 Piper frequently volunteer their time, appearing off the clock to local fundraisers, educational appearances, and more, on top of keeping airport visitors and residents safe.)
Highlight reel from last year: Managing two jobs and all of Piper’s stuff while somehow keeping sane.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Affordable housing.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Affordable housing.
My next big thing: Nothing planned; we fly by the seat of our pants.
Who knew: Retired obstacle racer and ultra runner. Finished The Death Race (48+ hours) and the World’s Toughest Mudder (24 hours) for which Piper was my training partner.
Biggest fan: “Brian Edwards (and Piper) utilizes social media advocating recognition for the service of our military personnel, provides hope to individuals where challenges are present, and demonstrates a positive message to our community youth to persevere and obtain their goals. Brian’s dedication and kind efforts not only are a treasure to our local community but impact individuals globally.” – Angela Jane Persik Gorenflo, Long Lake Elementary School
Host of the Christal Frost Show, WTCM NewsTalk 580, 37
Community involvement: CherryT Ball Drop and related events; National Cherry Festival board of governors; Parallel 45 Theatre Company board of directors; Swingshift & The Stars celebrity dancer; Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center.
Highlight reel from last year: Facilitating a collaboration between CherryT and Parallel 45 Theatre to bring an 18-show run of A Christmas Carol in Prose to the City Opera House, with all ticket proceeds going to CherryT charities.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Supportive housing and workforce housing.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: I feel that in an effort to grow quickly we may overlook the importance of the character of our community, thereby, losing the charm that made us unique and attractive in the first place. I am a big fan of smart and sustainable growth that utilizes the preservation of character.
My next big thing: My 15-year-old son, Trey, is releasing his debut album with Studio Anatomy next month! I could not be more proud!
Who knew? I used to be a photographer at Sears Portrait Studio.
Biggest fan: “The Traverse City Business News 40Under40 program has been a fantastic vehicle by which to introduce the community to some of the great young talent in our area, and Christal Frost is no exception. She is genuinely interested in, and curious to know more about, the people she meets and interviews. Her natural inquisitiveness and passion for learning have opened unique doors for Christal and she has taken those opportunities to not only share her personal talents, but to also create new ways give back to the community. I am excited to see what’s next for Christal . . . because I know there is more to come!” – Meredith Hawes, National Fire Protection Association
Realtor, Century 21 Northland, 35
Community involvement: Traverse Area Association of Realtors (TAAR), TC Young Professionals, USA Hockey Officials Development Program, Michigan Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA), TC Curling Club.
Highlight reel from last year: Being elected president-elect of the Traverse Area Association of Realtors was a HUGE honor.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: As a Realtor, the easy answer is affordable housing but I think that is more of a symptom of a bigger issue in our labor force. It will be crucial for us to continue to support all local efforts to develop and retain our local talent.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: The status quo. I believe we need to continue to be progressive (yet thoughtful) with our community’s development. I understand there is a fear of losing our small town feel, but by fighting all development we run the risk of regression. Also, we need to be aware of the message our community is sending to the rest of the state and country. When we as locals complain about tourists, traffic, development, or any other “problems” that come with a growing/thriving community, it can read to visitors as unwelcoming or “we’re full.”
My next big thing: Next year I’ll be the president of TAAR and am looking forward to continuing all of the great work our past presidents and boards have started.
Who knew? I am a hockey referee. I have had the privilege of refereeing the Red Wings Training Camp for the past eight years and for the past four years have worked with USA Hockey to help direct our regional youth hockey officials from Cadillac to Sault Ste. Marie.
Biggest fan: “Jamie is very driven with his career, is always looking to give back (whether to his community or to the industry that he works in). Combine that with being a lot of fun and a wicked sense of humor, he is truly a future leader of our community.” – Brad Platt, Century 21 Northland
President of Inhabitect, LLC, 37
Community involvement: Traverse City Community Garden; The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park; Grand Traverse Conservation District (Boardman River Nature Center); Northwestern Michigan College; FLOW; Groundworks Center for Resilient Communities; Master Gardeners Association of NW Michigan; American Society of Landscape Architects; Green Roofs for Healthy Cities; NMEAC
Highlight reel from last year: 2016 Environmentalist of the Year in the Business Category by NMEAC; invited to speak at the World Green Infrastructure Congress in Bogota, Colombia in Oct. 2016 (one of only a few from North America speaking at the event); successful completion of the green roofs at the Cowell Family Cancer Center.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: More mindful, long-term and resilient infrastructure planning must be put into place. As this region continues to grow we will need a more cohesive plan for our infrastructure. We must address the problems at hand and develop solutions to things such as higher volumes of traffic, stormwater, and sewage. Green (living) infrastructure offers an array of benefits and complements traditional infrastructure very nicely.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Poor planning and shortsighted development could forever alter our region. We must avoid sprawl at all costs and look to more progressive multi-use developments that provide places and spaces for people to live, work, and recreate without having to travel far distances for goods and services.
My next big thing: I will continue to work with and educate regional decision makers, designers, and developers on the triple-bottom-line benefits of adopting green infrastructure measuring into our ordinances, codes, and guidelines.
Who knew: I was a part of the Wildhearted Art Exhibit at the Crooked Tree Art Center in Traverse City and Petoskey. This was my very first show and I was honored to be the first to sell a piece of work during the show’s opening.
Biggest fan: “When Cherry Capital Foods purchased the old Glacier Dome, we knew we wanted to include a green roof, but a shortage of information and knowledgeable people to help in the process presented a problem. Nate’s expertise, professionalism, and tireless efforts turned that challenge into a simple decision. Green infrastructure investments speak positively to a community’s economic and environmental commitments and Nate articulates these values with a common sense passion that is inspiring.” – Evan Smith, Cherry Capital Foods
Sales Executive, Priority Health, 31
Community involvement: Traverse City Young Professionals Chair; Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; The Dance Center
Highlight reel from last year: Bringing our vision for the TCYP program to life in 2016. This year the Traverse City Chamber, YP committee and I have taken the program to a new level growing to more than 150 local Young Professionals and offering new, diverse opportunities for community engagement, social events, professional development and mentoring.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: We need a more connected and targeted initiative for young people to build their life in Traverse City. There are great local resources that fill some of these needs independently, but I believe we need a larger initiative to tie everything together – education, career, affordable housing, social network, and growth opportunities to maximize the retention and quality of life of our emerging local talent.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Affordable housing and middle-income job opportunities. The debate continues on which should come first. If YPs stay in northern Michigan to build a life here, they need opportunities, which will allow for growth both professionally and personally. If they can’t afford to live here during this growth period, then businesses won’t have the talent they need, and succession planning for our economic growth could suffer.
My next big thing: The TCYPs have partnered with Junior Achievement of northern Michigan to launch a new high school mentoring program called TCYP L.I.F.E. – Lessons In Future Endeavors. Another new initiative in development is our new TCYP Advocacy group that will monitor what’s happening in Traverse City, keep the YPs informed, and assist advocating for issues and decisions which impact YPs and our future.
Who knew: I won a hula-hoop contest when I was 7 and still love to take on the challenge of who can go the longest.
Biggest fan: “Lauren Harris has taken the great work done by her predecessors to create and build a Young Professionals program at the Chamber, and moved it to a new level – among the top such programs in Michigan. As a result, her contribution to the Chamber as a member of its Board on behalf of the Traverse City Young Professionals program has been significant. She is a leader and a ‘doer’ and the results of her efforts can be felt throughout our region.” – Douglas R. Luciani, TraverseCONNECT
Founder/CEO, Thrive Consulting Group, 34
Community involvement: Conscious Company Magazine, advisory board chair; Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce (board member); American Sustainable Business Council (member); Conscious Capitalism (member).
Highlight reel from last year: Worked with chamber of commerce leaders across the state to create Thriving Michigan, a pilot program for conscious business training with a goal to have Michigan lead the nation in the adoption of conscious business principles.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: If the fundamentals of a business are sound, the culture of the workplace has a dramatic effect on the performance of that business. The GT region has many resources to help business build sound fundamentals, but once business leaders have achieved this, there is scant help to build world-class workplace cultures. This may be the secret sauce to help the GT region create broad prosperity at a healthy and sustainable pace.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Conscious business practices are a rising tide, and other communities in Michigan and beyond are taking them very seriously. If our business leaders take seriously the higher bar to which business must now reach, we can ride the tide as it comes in to our great mutual benefit. But if we fail to do so, we will miss the opportunity and struggle to stay afloat.
My next big thing: In its September issue, Conscious Company Magazine announced it will use the curriculum we developed for Thriving Michigan as its official training program for conscious business nationwide.
Who knew? My wife and I moved to Lake Leelanau sight unseen in August of 2014. We’d never been to northern Michigan when she was recruited to join Doug Fierberg’s national law practice that happens to have an office in Lake Leelanau. Before that, we lived for a year or two in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Boston, and Anchorage, Alaska.
Biggest fan: “Nathan’s passion for the Conscious Capitalism movement is infectious and is beginning to really resonate in the Petoskey area. I see this movement as the business-as-usual of the future and Nathan is leading the charge.” – Carlin Smith, Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce
President/CEO, Mid-American Title Company, 33
Community involvement: Traverse City Free Masons; Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce; TC Young Professionals; Benzie County Chamber of Commerce; Michigan Land Title Association; Traverse Area Association of Realtors.
Highlight reel from last year: Unquestionably my proudest moment would be becoming a first time father this past May. In the professional world, I would say I am proudest to have been able to increase our staff by 30 percent, outgrowing our current offices.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Housing development and urban sprawl to create newer and more affordable neighborhoods. Jobs and housing go hand and hand, and generally jobs seem to follow behind where a good housing infrastructure has been created.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Being too centric on density, which is creating shortages in housing and affordability.
My next big thing: Recently purchased a property in the downtown area, working on remodeling and relocating our offices.
Who knew? One of my favorite things is to teach, be it formal or informal. I have had the opportunity to teach all different sizes of classes and clients on a variety of topics. I always leave with a great sense of accomplishment. I believe I must have been an educator in a past life.
Biggest fan: “Brandon Hunt is one dynamic man. In 35 years of real estate, I’ve not seen a harder working, more creative person!” – Tom Krause, Krause Realty Solutions
President, Springfield Inc., 31
Community involvement: TC Young Professionals – Connect Committee co-chair; Chamber ambassador.
Highlight reel from last year: The growth and job creation that our company has produced. Our fall protection department now has a general manager, professional engineer, two engineer technicians, and we have added four new field technicians who help with both the roofing and fall protection sides of the business. I am also proud of the quality we have maintained during our growth. Our roofing department had an average quality score of 98 percent out of 100 in 2015, ranking us as one of the top (if not the very top rated) Durolast roofing contractor in the nation.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Quality, affordable housing for young professionals. Finding a decent place that we could afford was a struggle for me and my wife when we were in our early 20s and it has become the most difficult aspect of the onboarding process for new Springfield employees.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: The lack of middle class, which relates back to the affordable housing for young professionals.
My next big thing: Continue to experience controlled growth by adding 4-6 new employees to support the workload in the fall protection department. Company owners Terry and Terri Jo Umlor have built a business and working environment that is second to none and, as a team, we want to continue to build on that foundation.
Who knew? When I was in college, I was a wedding DJ on the weekends. The company that I worked for scheduled a lot of jobs in Traverse City and it was during those weddings that I realized this was somewhere I might want to live someday. More importantly, that job gave me experience working with people when their stress and anxiety levels are at their highest.
Biggest fan: “I’ve known Nick for about six years. I have always found him to be professional, while at the same time very personal. He has always taken care of our buildings as if they were his own. I am very happy for him to be receiving this award.” – Doug Plumstead, Graceland Fruit
Member Relations Manager, Cherryland Electric Coop, 36
Community involvement: Traverse Area Chamber of Commerce Government Relations Committee; Networks Northwest Board of Directors; Zonta Club of Traverse City Board of Directors; Freedom Builders; Munson Manor; Mid-Michigan Honor Flight.
Highlight reel from last year: Co-developed a new survey mechanism to measure member loyalty in electric cooperatives that is now being used by electric cooperatives across the country. Expanded community conversation about energy issues by inviting community leaders and local young professionals to participate in Cherryland’s podcast, “Coop Energy Talk.” Served as a guardian on the October 2015 Mid-Michigan Honor Flight.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: I believe that the cooperative business model could help solve many of the most pressing needs in our community. From affordable housing to agricultural production, cooperatives give their members the opportunity to do something together they could never do alone. I would love to see the creation of a cooperative alliance in our community that can increase awareness of the business model and support the development of new cooperatives.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: We are very lucky; people want to live, work, and grow their businesses here. If we continue to make it difficult for growth to happen downtown and in other population centers, we will see increasing urban sprawl and we won’t have the vibrant well-planned community that all of our visioning projects imagined.
My next big thing: I’m running for the NMC Board of Trustees.
Who knew: I was once hit in the arm by a ricochet bullet at a shooting range.
Biggest fan: “Rachel Johnson¹s work ethic, leadership, innovation and community service exemplify Cherryland Electric Cooperative¹s commitment to community and high standards for member service.” – Tony Anderson, Cherryland Electric
Owner, Sweet Pea and Hickory Corners, 36
Community involvement: DDA
Highlight reel from last year: I’m excited to say that with the help of Miller Investments, our Hickory Corners property is 100 percent occupied with tenants. Sweet Pea is continuing to grow and we are one of the top Tea Collection retailers in the United States. I was also selected to be on the DDA board.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Continuing to grow companies that entice young professionals to start their careers in Traverse City. I also think it is advantageous to have more affordable housing partnerships in our area. This will help in many ways, but also offer people being closer to work and helping to reduce transportation costs.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Successfully developing high-quality affordable housing will help strengthen public-private partnerships. Without this partnership we are without a steady workforce.
My next big thing: My wife, Michele, and I are expecting our fifth child in October. Also, we continue to develop plans for Hickory Corners and other commercial real estate ventures.
Who knew: I have a twin sister AND she owns a children’s store in Holland, Mich. Actually, we both own two of the largest independently-owned children’s stores in the Midwest.
Biggest fan: “When you spend time with Jeff you’ll have laughs and great conversation. Yes, he runs a great business, but faith is paramount and you will find his family in the first few pews at mass every Sunday.” – Erik Gruber, Sagemark Consulting – Private Wealth Services Group
Owner, Image360, 37
Community involvement: Rotary (Note: we need more of the under 40 crowd to get involved – especially millennials!); Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce (board member).
Highlight reel from last year: Celebrating 20 years with the company that I now own. Complete interior and exterior rebranding of 4Front Credit Union’s 14 branches; won Project of the Year award from a national trade publication as well as a Builder’s Exchange Award of Excellence for it.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Affordable housing for the middle class that’s close (or in) town. Our community must agree and proceed on a clear path for growth that doesn’t negatively impact our small town vibe or, most importantly, our natural resources.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Two things: We need to better encourage and highlight examples of conscious capitalism and protect our natural resources, fixing threats before they become issues/disasters. These are two major aspects that, in my eyes, make our region so unique. Without them, we’re in trouble.
My next big thing: Building expansion and equipment investment – more than doubling our space and production capabilities.
Who knew? I changed my last name from Hobbs to Kohlmann before getting married. The Kohlmann family raised me to be who I am today and I wanted to pass down a meaningful name to my children.
Biggest fan: “Andrew relishes the challenge and never fails to surpass even the loftiest expectations. He’s innovative yet grounded, a big picture guy who never overlooks the small things. But most telling is the guy constantly deflects praise to his talented team and possesses an individual modesty that makes working with him on a project both professionally rewarding and personally redeeming.” – Keith Carey, 4Front Credit Union
Farming and Marketing, LaCross Farms and Leelanau Fruit Co., 37
Community involvement: Michigan Farm Bureau, Board of Directors; Farm Bureau Insurance Board of Directors; Michigan Cherry Committee Member; Michigan Association of Cherry Producers Board Member; Leelanau Horticultural Society; Traverse Area Chamber Young Professionals; Youth baseball and basketball coach; Gov. Rick Snyder’s 21st Century Infrastructure Commission
Highlight reel: In April I was honored to be appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to his 21st Century Infrastructure Commission (charged with developing recommendations and coordinating the first steps to begin to overhaul Michigan’s infrastructure into a world-class system). I organized the commission’s first meeting outside of Lansing. In early July, the commission traveled to the Grand Traverse area to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities we face.
Biggest need in the GT Region in the next 5 years: High-speed internet. Broadband. Fiber access. We need world-class internet service in Traverse City and the area that surrounds it, including rural areas.
Biggest risk/threat facing our region in the next five years: I don’t think people realize how many people rely upon the cherry crop for jobs and how much of an economic impact cherries really have to this area. If for some reason the industry had a major disruption, the region would feel its effects for a long time. (In the last 15 years, cherry growers have endured the most volatile crop conditions ever.) In 2016, the industry commissioned a study to find out exactly how many imported tart cherries were being sold in the U.S. market. We were shocked to learn that over 200 million pounds of imports are coming into our country at a time when we struggle to sell all of our crop. These imports are extremely low-cost, quite possibly supported by their countries governments. U.S. tart cherry growers cannot compete against these low cost imports. There would be virtually no return for growers if we did. We must, however, show value to the companies that buy imported cherries, and market our crop accordingly. Our fruit has a great value proposition to buyers – tart cherries are healthy, versatile, and they are America’s homegrown super fruit. The industry must prove that that value is greater than the cost savings of dirt-cheap imports.
My next big thing: The Governor’s 21st Century Infrastructure Commission report is due in November, so a quite a bit of my focus will be on infrastructure. I’ve done some work with TC NewTech, Traverse City Light and Power, and Cherryland Electric Coop on an internet access project, and I’d like to see that move forward soon. It would impact this community positively very quickly. I also plan to keep working in the cherry industry to address low-cost imports and help growers find new and innovative ways to incorporate our cherries into new products.
Who knew: President Barack Obama once gave me a “bro hug.” I introduced him to sign the 2014 Farm Bill at Michigan State University.
Biggest fan: “From the first time I met Ben I recognized his natural leadership skills. He also is incredibly entrepreneurial and innovative. Ben actively advocates for his industry and business in general. His knowledge and enthusiasm inspires those around him to take action. Ben is very deserving of the Hagerty/TCBN 40Under40 award.” – Russ Knopp, Comfort Keepers
Regional Planning Department Manager, Networks Northwest, 38
Community involvement: Homestretch, Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.
Highlight reel from last year: In our economic development work along US-131, I loved seeing the excitement about the potential for growth and change along US-131 – and watching 131 community leaders coalesce into a cooperative, collaborative group that is going to get big things done.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Housing! Well-designed, appropriately-located, affordable housing for everyone. Obviously.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Fear of change and lack of diversity and inclusivity. The world’s economy has changed, demographics have changed, markets and preferences and needs have changed – and they will continue to change. This means that the challenges we’re facing today are different than the ones we had 50, 20, or even 10 years ago. They require new solutions, which in turn depend on new ideas and new people – which we won’t get if we’re unwilling to embrace and plan for change.
My next big thing: I’m looking forward to working with human service partners to find a better way to address issues like poverty, addiction, health, safety, and child welfare in community planning and development initiatives. Too often, planning focuses on only the environment, and doesn’t get into how much that environment impacts, and is impacted by, the social issues every community is dealing with.
Who knew? I grew up on a dairy farm. I love cows!
Biggest fan: “Sarah has an almost magical ability to gently, rationally bring people together based on what they have in common, even when they start out contentious or conflicted. She is patient and persistent when others are ready to give up. Sarah is brilliant but humble. These unique leadership qualities make Sarah extremely valuable to our communities!” – Elaine Wood, Networks Northwest
Planning and Engineering Assistant, City of TC, 37
Community involvement: Because I regularly have evening meetings and have young children at home, my focus right now is raising my family. And my boys keep me hopping! “My boys” include my husband, 1.5-year-old, 5-year-old and 13-year-old black lab.
Highlight reel from last year: I feel very fortunate to work on a variety of projects that enrich our community and make it a better place to live, work and play. My role on these projects varies, but I hope that having even a small imprint on these projects helps in making Traverse City even greater. Last spring, we celebrated two ribbon cuttings for the West Boardman Lake Trail and West End Beach Trail and Access Project. They were placemaking projects that provided access to the Bay and Boardman Lake, created recreation areas, included solar/wind powered lighting, innovative stormwater management systems and landscaping. Another placemaking project we celebrated this summer was the Pine Street Pedestrian Bridge that connects West Front to the Warehouse District by spanning the Boardman River. The project included plaza areas, landscaping, lighting, access to the Boardman River and electrical undergrounding. In another project, we re-imagined West Front Street. I would describe the new streetscape as fresh, vibrant and alive.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Affordable housing within the city limits. Our tourism/service-based economy cannot survive if current and future employees cannot afford to live here. Rents and housing prices will force more people to live further from their place of work and put even more pressure on parking demands. It is not sustainable…
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Development. Big developments, small developments, public development – it’s all happening here in Traverse City! The City is experiencing some disenchantment of both public and private development. Public projects, like street reconstruction projects, bayfront redevelopment projects, civic projects, park redevelopment projects are not all well-received. The City is also experiencing a development boom for residential and commercial projects. Some in the community are worried we will lose our “small town character” and are concerned that we may be developing too quickly. I believe that development is healthy for a community. Without an increase to our tax-base, we won’t be able to afford the amenities like improved streetscapes, waterfront improvements and park redesigns so many are calling for.
My next big thing: The next projects on my plate are working on updating the city’s Master Plan, completing the Eighth Street planning process, and a Clancy Park (on Old Mission Peninsula) improvement project. One big project coming up is a Safe Routes to School project involving all of the K-8 schools within the city limits. It likely will be a project well over $1 million and require coordination with the schools, parents, property owners and likely will take many months and numerous meetings. The goal is that, in the end, our schools will be better connected with safe walking and biking routes to school and our kids will be happier and healthier.
Biggest fan: “Without hesitation, Missy progressively takes on new projects and expanded responsibilities. She anticipates future steps and offers creative approaches to move complex projects forward. I have worked with many people on community projects, but I have never worked with someone that can be both proficient while still being totally cognizant of the varying needs and desires of our citizens.” Russell Soyring, City of Traverse City
City Clerk, City of Traverse City, 36
Community involvement: Junior Achievement, NorthSky Nonprofit Network, United Way of Northwest Michigan, Rotary Club of Traverse City.
Highlight reel from last year: It was an honor to serve on the small team that advised the city manager on the appointment of Traverse City’s new police chief, a key decision for impacting the next chapter of our police department. I’m proud and comforted that we have someone of Chief Jeff O’Brien’s caliber and authenticity leading the TCPD.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: We’re often missing the voice of 20- and 30-somethings in the formation of public policy. I am speaking in the broadest sense and also a very narrow sense. It’s critical that our region have the benefit of knowing what’s important to this significant group. On a much lighter note, laughter is great for the soul, and I’d like to see a permanent comedy house in downtown Traverse City that brings in great talent.
My next big thing: Sept. 6 marks five years since the confirmation of my appointment as city clerk for this incredible, dynamic city. For me, it’s heart-warming and fulfilling to be involved in so much of what makes this community work, as well as being charged with important operational responsibilities. I take it seriously, and while the role comes with it’s share of challenges and difficulties, I also have fun with it. I’m grateful.
Who knew? As part of their curriculum, I work with medical students at Michigan State University’s College of Medicine on their communications abilities. I do this by serving as a simulated patient and providing focused, critical feedback to shape the student’s communications and interpersonal skills. The goal is to develop the communications skills of future medical doctors so there is trust and a real sense of connection between the patient and the physician, which is essential to effective treatment and physical health. It’s fulfilling work and also quirky-fun.
Biggest fan: “Benjamin is one of the most authentic, caring, and amazing people that I know. He has such passion for our community, his work and for life. Traverse City is blessed to have him live and work in our town. His positive attitude is so contagious that I find myself wanting to do whatever he does JUST to support him and hang out with him!” – Allison Beers, Events North
Managing Director of Beta Batch Startup Accelerator, 32
Community involvement: Chompler Food Delivery (advisor), Think TC (community organizer), Grand Traverse County Planning Commission (commissioner), Traverse City Board of Zoning Appeals (member), Junior Achievement (coach).
Highlight reel from last year: Launched Beta Batch, a startup accelerator downtown that provides startup teams with office space and mentoring to get their companies generating revenue and investment-ready. Helped get Chompler Food Delivery off the ground and delivering local dishes to customers throughout the area.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: We’re in need of progressive policies that allow for more workforce housing and innovation downtown.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: The Traverse region is in risk of focusing only on retirees, alienating growth and innovation and becoming a stagnant region similar to northeast Michigan.
Who knew? My wife and business partner Kirsten and I met at the TCFF filmmakers party in 2009. We’re often seen with our 5-year-old Goldendoodle Scout.
Biggest fan: “It’s because of people like Bradley Matson that give me faith that our community is in good hands.” – Erik Akerley, Chompler Food Delivery.
Office of U.S. Senator Gary C. Peters, Northern Michigan Regional Director, 34
Community involvement: TC DDA, Planned Parenthood of MI, Munson Community Health Committee.
Highlight reel from last year: 2016 has been a wrecking ball. In the past year, I started a new job (which I LOVE!), had a baby girl and three of my loved ones got cancer. Throughout this mash-up of joy, fear and sleep deprivation, there has been delicious food, wine, diapers and lottery tickets lovingly left on my front porch. (Hey Traverse City … you’re awesome! Thank you!) This generosity has been the highlight of my year. It has made me smile, when I’ve often felt like bawling. To all of you bakers and pasta makers, thank you. On the light side, in 2016 I learned how to deglaze a pan and I have a newfound love for gin (thanks, Deb Lake) and the tasty old-timey cocktails that include it.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Downtown rental housing (studio apartments. one-bedroom apartments). Specifically, we need housing for folks who have recently graduated from college and/or who are pursuing entry-level jobs such as nurses, teachers, law enforcement officers and hospitality industry professionals.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Success breeds success, and that breeds more success. We’ve had a lot of success … QUICKLY. If we want our community to keep on this trajectory, and I believe that we do, we need to make room for the talent to staff the businesses that have garnered so many regional accolades. Our community is plastered with HELP WANTED signs. We must work to welcome and house that help, or those workers will choose to live and raise their families somewhere else. That’d be a mega bummer.
My next big thing: Potty training my son, Harvey.
Who knew? I have a teaching certificate and I hate The Doors.
Biggest fan: “Leah is a leader for our community that has such a balance in her life. Her belief in community service, helping to bring positive change will be felt for years to come by so many people; our community is fortunate to have her commitment and selfless attitude working for us!” – Jean Derenzy, GT Co. Planning and Development
CEO/Owner, Oneupweb, 35
Community involvement: Battle of the Books (in collaboration with National Writers Series and Angie Morgan from Lead Star); Northwest Michigan Health Services (Board Member); Camp Laurel (takes kids who are affected and infected by HIV/AIDS on empowerment camping trips); Emma L. Bowen Foundation
Highlight reel from last year: The recent launch of the www.pkdcure.org, a client whose sole mission is to end Poly-Cystic Kidney Disease. The project was one of the larger ones in our agency’s history and it took us a year to design and develop this website. A lot of heartfelt notes were forwarded to us from our client and that was a really proud moment for us all.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Cultural Center; affordable housing/rentals; more resources around public transportation; and a light at the intersection of M-186 and US-131. This one is personal. Not one year goes by that there isn’t a fatal car accident at this intersection.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: The Real Estate Bubble. We have a thriving real estate market, but it’s catering to a population of people of which there isn’t an infinite amount. If tourism took a dive, how would our economy react? We need to nurture other sectors of our economy to make sure it’s not so reliant on tourism.
My next big thing: Fiber. Our local utility providers can step in and invest in building out a fiber internet roll out. That would have an amazing ripple effect to not only Traverse City, but its surrounding communities where just 10 miles outside of our city limits, you either have a MI spot or satellite as an option. Neither are good.
Who knew: I worked for a Jewish catering company in Los Angeles for 14 years while in school.
Biggest fan: “Fernando is the most selfless CEO I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with and his thoughtful dedication to his employees as well as clients has had an immediate and progressive impact on our local community and economy. Congratulations Fernando on this well-deserved recognition!” – Janese Horton, Oneupweb
Founder, MacUpdate, Mueller Enterprises, Mueller Capital etc., 37
Community involvement: One-on-one mentorships; Traverse City Central High School; NMC-business pitch startup teaching; TCNewTech; Northern Michigan Angels; Front Street Irregulars
Highlight reel from last year: I’m proud to see people taking ownership of a vision where Traverse City isn’t just a tourist destination or a place that exports our talent to other states. Instead, people are starting to come together to envision the future of Traverse City where we have higher-paying jobs all year long. To accomplish this, we need (1) more employers to step up and take on larger, community leadership roles, (2) knock down communication silos so more companies are aware of what each other are doing, (3) work together to develop a shared workspace downtown where startups can call home and pieces of existing companies can integrate their employees in a more collaborative, high energy location.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Our biggest threat is that we continue to only think of Traverse City from the lens of a tourist – that it’s a beautiful place to visit, relax, eat and be entertained. Tourism is risky business. Any company that relies on a few months of sales to support their annual operations is a higher-risk business. Instead, when we talk about Traverse City with each other, we should be talking about the projects and problems that local businesses are taking initiative to solve.
My next big thing: I want to see a tech-based shared workspace in downtown Traverse City. Imagine tourists visiting from downstate and instead of only thinking about TC as a vacation destination, they see people working and colliding with each other, talking about growing their companies, creating innovative products and encouraging each other to keep working on their goals. Someone from Grand Rapids or Detroit who sees this might start to envision how they could see themselves living in Traverse City and working in this shared workspace, colliding with like-minded people.
Who knew: My last job, before founding MacUpdate as a teenager in Suttons Bay, was bagging groceries at Tom’s West Bay. It was a blast and I learned so much!
Biggest fan: “The real way to think about “J” is what would be the impact for Traverse City if he lived in, say, Boulder or Chattanooga or Bend, OR? Let’s see ….. We wouldn’t have a hyper-successful millennial basing his global Mac-business here. We wouldn’t have a clear, imaginative, incisive thinker powering his energy into making and keeping the culture and vitality of our area strong. We wouldn’t have a successful entrepreneur engaging high school students in how to evaluate an idea, develop a plan and start a business. We wouldn’t have an inquisitive and thorough mind that studies and learns what works in other communities and that will question the local orthodoxy. J consistently and aggressively directs our local economy in the direction of long-term, sustainable and extendable economic value. Boulder, Chattanooga and Bend would all Love to Have Him. We’re extremely fortunate he is with us.” – Casey Cowell
Traverse City DDA Deputy & Marketing Director, 38
Community involvement: Rotary; National Cherry Festival board of directors (secretary).
Highlight reel from last year: Continued the promotion of the arts in the community; secured the Detroit Institute of Art’s Inside Out exhibit to display in Traverse City May through October.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Affordable housing on many levels, for those entering the workforce and also for young families, especially within the city limits.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: The need for good paying jobs ands affordable housing options are critical to a strong community. A growing retirement community has resulted in a decline in families and that can have adverse effects on our public school system, neighborhoods, workforce, etc.
My next big thing: Professionally speaking, looking forward to the reconstruction of the farmers market project. Downtown has the largest growers market in the state and one of the top markets for supporting food assistance programs. We support nearly 130 vendors annually and look forward to creating a multi-use space that supports the farmers market vendors, as well as the 160,000 customers that the market sees annually.
Who knew? In 8th grade I was chosen to present a wreath to the tomb of the unknown soldier in Washington D.C. It was a very presidential moment.
Biggest fan: “In her role at the Downtown Development Authority, Colleen has proven herself a leader many times over. Downtown Traverse City is very lucky to have her as one of its biggest advocates!” – Rob Bacigalupi, Traverse City DDA
Director of Housing, Goodwill Industries of NM, 36
Community involvement: Rotary Club of Traverse City; Rotary Charities of Traverse City; Grace Episcopal Church; Pathfinder School
Highlight reel from last year: After a little more than three years with Goodwill, I had the opportunity to take over for Goodwill’s Housing Director, who retired. Although a new field for me, I was able to apply my past experience in corporate finance and project management to lead the completion of building a 36-unit permanent supportive housing project. The work ranged from collaborating with federal and state project financers, project builder and human service teams to ensure that our project goal of providing affordable housing with social service supports would be built on time, on budget and uphold our agency’s mission.
I was tapped by Rotary Charities to help develop an Impact Investing strategy for our community. It is a dream on its way to coming true that Rotary pushes itself to look at innovative and sustainable ways to support positive social impact.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: HOUSING. HOUSING. HOUSING. Our community is stepping on itself debating the need for housing when the solution is right in front of us. Let’s do the right thing and build more of it. Each of us knows someone who has a hard time to find a place to live in Traverse City. We are going to grow – so let’s embrace it and build it with intention.
My next big thing: Working on strengthening our existing community systems to end homelessness.
Who knew: I love midway rides. The more spins on the Zipper, the better.
Biggest fan: “Sakura has brought good things to TC. She leads through listening and learning. She’s inclusive and thoroughly kind…She never seems to have a bad day. Always smiling. Always seeing the good in every person and situation…” – Leah Bagdon McCallum, Office of U.S. Senator Gary C. Peters,
Founder and Principal, Northern Strategies 360, 35
Community involvement: Member of the Traverse City DDA Board; Vice President of the Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited; Trail Ambassador with TART Trails; Member of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Government Relations Committee.
Highlight reel from last year: I am most proud of having now been in business for over a year and having the ability to support a summer internship, successfully advocating on behalf of Munson Healthcare for continued state and federal support of rural healthcare, successfully coordinating the advocacy communication efforts of Northwestern Michigan College, which resulted in state approval of more than $7 million for the West Hall Innovation Center, and assisting several area non-profit groups with navigating the state and federal administrative, legislative and grant process.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: A collective willingness to make bold investments in our regional infrastructure, including workforce/affordable housing, motorized/non-motorized transportation, recreation, utilities and governance, which will allow us to be prospective rather that retrospective in our approach to growing our economy and community.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: The biggest threat to our region is if our community only focuses on what we were and not on what we are becoming, which is a metropolitan area with a strong urban core that supports people and businesses who want to locate here to work, live and play.
My next big thing: To make additional entrepreneurial investments, either in my business ideas or those of others.
Who knew: Growing up I was home-schooled, attended a Montessori elementary school, Catholic middle school and a public high school. I also lived in Japan for three months, was known as DJ Kwik in high school and in college, and once rode a bike from Lansing to Mackinaw City.
Biggest fan: “In a community with great talent, here is someone with this fabulous mix of curiosity, intelligence, ‘let’s-get-it-done-together’ organizational skills, energy, humor, warmth; at home anywhere, he’s grounded here and we’re all the better for it!” – Marguerite Cotto, Northwestern Michigan College
Owner and Brewer, Rare Bird Brewpub, 30
Community involvement: Cherryland Humane Society; Up North Pride; Goodwill of Northern Michigan; El Grupo Norte!; Northern Initiatives; Fermenta
Highlight reel from last year: Starting “Do Good” Tap here at Rare Bird which is constantly raising $1 per pint for local charities. Winning the TC Stout Challenge. Making it to the two-year mark with Rare Bird and having it be a huge success.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Affordable housing and public transit.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: I feel like we are growing a bit quicker than our infrastructure is prepared for. We need some serious new designs in our roads and traffic in particular
My next big thing: Top secret 😉
Who knew: I used to be a park ranger in California and New Zealand and then did children’s health research.
Biggest fan: “Tina’s passion for Rare Bird inspires other young minds to follow their dreams! She has helped create a positive, inclusive space for our community to gather.” – Amy Maki
Vice President of Finance and Treasurer, Hagerty, 35
Community involvement: Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Celebration judge; The Children’s House, finance committee.
Highlight reel from last year: Led the charge in finance at Hagerty to provide a dynamic long-term financial planning model that includes capital and scenario planning for strategic initiatives.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Entry-level housing (starter homes/condos) for young professionals. Like many other local businesses, Hagerty is a great place to work and we need strong young talent to help our business continue to thrive. Young professionals are the future of Hagerty and they need a more reasonable cost of living to ensure we aren’t missing out on top local talent.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Depth and quantity of professional-related jobs. Many of the jobs in the area are hospitality and tourism-related jobs. The community needs to continue to invest and support small and mid-sized growth companies in order to create more jobs for young professionals and increase the overall economic value in our region.
My next big thing: Growing up in metro Detroit, I never thought I’d be living and working in such an amazing place. Ten years at Hagerty is right around the corner.
Who knew? I am an only child, and as a result, enjoy developing genuine close relationships with friends and colleagues.
Biggest fan: “Dave has the unique balance of strong analytical and relationship-building skills that allow him to work effectively with various financial institutions and community leaders. Serving as a judge for the Chamber’s Small Business of the Year Celebration, Dave has built strong relationships with and influenced many local businesses and community leaders.” – Daniel Baker, First Community Bank
Book Awards Coordinator and Festival Director- Jenkins Group, 36
Community involvement: Traverse City City Commission (City Commissioner); Friends of Traverse Area District Library (Publicity Chair); American Association of University Women (AAUW)-Traverse City Branch (President); Director of Traverse City Children’s Book Festival.
Highlight reel from last year: As a city commissioner, I’ve been a member of the committee working to complete the Boardman TART Trail. The project has been a great reminder of what a wonderful community we live in. In April, AAUW-Traverse City hosted a “Women in the Workplace” forum at the State Theatre. I was able to talk with amazing women from local businesses about workplace issues past and present. The Traverse City Children’s Book Festival continues to be the little Festival that could. Last year we drew children’s authors from California to Puerto Rico to Traverse City for hundreds of families to discover.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: We need to find agreement on growth. There are a lot of opinions on zoning, infrastructure, and even recreation. There has to be compromise on all sides to move forward. The Eighth Street charrette was a good start with open dialogue among people from all areas of the region.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: We are a relatively safe community from what most people would consider risks or threats. There have been concerns about the county’s finances, but I trust they will continue working toward solutions while keeping community concerns in mind.
My next big thing: I worked with my branch of AAUW to bring AAUW of Michigan’s Leadership Conference to Traverse City this October. People from around the state will not only experience our great hospitality, but also get to know some of the dynamic leaders in our region.
Who knew: I have no musical abilities of my own, but can name almost any popular song from the last 70 years with just a few notes or partial song lyrics.
Biggest fan: “Despite being the youngest member of the University Women, Amy is an inspiration. She works tirelessly and brings fresh ideas that she implements with excellence.” – Deb Oetjens Jackson, Marketing & Business Consultant, President of Zonta
Broker/Owner, EXIT Realty Paramount, 39
Community involvement: Development chair/board member, Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy; Wish Granter, Make a Wish Michigan; TAAR safety task force committee.
Highlight reel from last year: We moved to our new location on Southwest Bayshore Drive this spring and had a huge turnout for our grand opening celebration. It was truly the culmination of teamwork and excellence that has brought EXIT to this point. I have owned EXIT for four and a half years upon moving to this new location.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: We are seeing increased issues with our basic infrastructure that have had a negative impact on our year-round residents. If we don’t develop a solution for the increased issues that come with the growth that we are experiencing, we run the risk of losing long-time residents to other more growth-friendly cities. In short, what is “missing” is a long-range plan to accommodate growth (i.e., traffic, public transportation, emergency services, etc.).
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Our region has seen substantial growth in the last 20 years. I think one of the major dangers we face is the increase in crime, both from drugs and violent crime. We have fewer officers employed, yet crime are rates increasing. I think the entire region needs to examine all aspects of its infrastructure and how better to sustain for long-range growth and sustainability.
My next big thing: I serve as the Development Chair for the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, a regional response center for the protection and well-being of children. We have a huge fall planned. We are officially launching TEAM ZERO, the prevention arm of the TBCAC and an ever-growing collective of individuals and organizations committed to bringing the rate of child sexual abuse in our region to zero.
Who knew: I’ve broken more than 30 bones.
Biggest fan: “Holly is committed to consciously creating the best world for our children. Deeply dedicated to the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center and Team Zero, her big heart and bright smile are contagious reminders that anything is possible, even ending child sexual abuse.” – Sue Bolde, Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center
Executive Director of the National Cherry Festival (upcoming Pres./CEO of Traverse City Tourism) 39
Community involvement: Rotary Club of Traverse City – chair, Ad Sales Committee (club’s biggest fundraiser); Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce – Government Relations Committee; Central Michigan University Recreation, Parks and Leisure Advisory Board; Pure Michigan Strategic Plan Service Excellence Committee.
Highlight reel from last year: Working with Festival staff and volunteers to create an amazing 90th National Cherry Festival. From the East Coast blitz in June that got us on Good Morning America and in the office of the Speaker of the House, to the 4th of July U.S. Navy Blue Angels performance and the return of the coveted Heritage Parade – this year was awesome!
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Education. Higher education is being packaged and delivered in more strategic ways every year. The region needs to keep its workforce well educated while simultaneously drawing young talent and great minds to the area to enhance their skills in the most beautiful place on earth.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: We must continue to address the infrastructure needs of the region. From roads to buildings to technology, all must enhance and grow as our region flourishes.
My next big thing: As of this month I am the new president and CEO of Traverse City Tourism. Tourism is a critical part of our local economy. I look forward to collaborating with a variety of community and industry leaders to ensure growth and prosperity long into the future.
Who knew? I met my wife Trisha at her brother’s high school graduation party. We have been together for more than 20 years. I love you Trisha!
Biggest fan: “I have been pleased to observe the growth and development of Trevor in a number of critical areas. In education, he completed his MBA, and in business he has been creative and innovative in designing new and exciting ways to enhance the brand of the NCF, which has enhanced the economic growth of the region.” – Tom Menzel, Grand Traverse County
City Attorney, City of Traverse City, 36
Community involvement: Grand Traverse-Leelanau-Antrim Bar Association (Immediate Past President); Women Lawyers Association, Secretary; Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys, Board Member
Highlight reel from last year: Seeing the Garland Street project come together with the addition of the new pedestrian bridge has been really fun, especially because this was one of the first projects I worked on when I came on at the City.
Who knew: I worked on a horse farm during and after college where I got to help care for young horses and train them for their future lives as show jumpers.
Biggest fan: “As an attorney who works with the City on a regular basis, and as a member of the DDA Board represented by Lauren in her role as City Attorney, I find myself in a growing group of admirers. Lauren has a strong knowledge of municipal law, but also provides her counsel with wisdom and grace. It is clear that she has adopted Traverse City as her home, and she cares about seeing the city and its residents succeed in their objectives. Lauren also has served as president of the local Bar Association, confirming that she has the respect of her professional peers. The City has been well served with the last two city attorneys, and Lauren fits well into that group of distinguished lawyers. It is a pleasure to work with her on a regular basis.” – Chuck Judson, Attorney, Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge
Marketing Manager, Traverse City State Bank, 39
Community involvement: Norte! Youth Cycling board president; Michigan Legacy Art Park board of directors; Rotary Club; City Lot steering committee member; Smart Commute Week committee member.
Highlight reel from last year: Collaborating with the DDA and local businesses to launch a successful “Cash Mob” for West Front Street during the delayed reconstruction project. I love connecting the dots and bringing business, nonprofit, the public and municipality together!
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: Diversity, affordable housing, middle class jobs, ethnic food, public art
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: I’m concerned our area is getting even whiter, richer and older. There needs to be more balance and diversity in our area. The rising cost of living is forcing people to move out, increasing sprawl and this unsustainable system is hurting the schools and employers who can’t find qualified entry-level workers.
My next big thing: I’m a big winter lover and I want to share this passion with more people after hearing people every winter constantly lament about the weather. I received a grant for my “My Best Winter Ever!” idea and plan to collaborate with more organizations and businesses to help northern Michigan discover the amazing other half of the year.
Who knew? I started the Empire Asparagus Festival.
Biggest fan: “Smart. Creative. Productive. A highly efficient leader. As board president, Ashlea has taken Norte! to a whole new level of awesome.” – Ty Schmidt, Norte!
Director of Government Relations, Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance, 32
Community involvement: Toys for Tots
Highlight reel from last year: It seems like I spent the majority of the year advocating for housing and development issues, with more work yet to be done. There have been some big ups and downs throughout the year, but it’s something I am passionate about and am proud to fight for: Housing options and the development tools that help make them happen because I believe they help provide the economic and social vibrancy and diversity that will enable our community to have a year-round economy.
Biggest need in GT region in next five years: More Housing, more day care, more transportation options.
Biggest risk/threat to GT region in next five years: Missing out on taking full advantage of the state/national economic recovery because we don’t have the infrastructure in place to grow our economy year-round: low-middle income housing stock, bandwidth and lighting fiber, redevelopment of blighted properties, parking, underground infrastructure to protect public health and the environment.
My next big thing: Exploring the appetite for a local/regional business or advocacy podcast. Would also love to see TC become known for startups and small business acceleration.
Who knew: My wife and I (mostly my wife) just had baby No. 4 in August.
Biggest fan: “If there is a group of people that are working to make a better tomorrow for this region, Kent Wood is either a leader in that group or you want him to be a leader in that group.” – Mark Eckhoff, Three West, LLC