A Career With a View: Creating excellent career opportunities to match our exceptional quality of life

March is a month of transformation as we look forward to longer days and the hopeful arrival of spring. Much like the change in seasons, Traverse Connect has undergone a complete transformation over the past year. We have a new mission focused on advancing the economic vitality of the Grand Traverse region through the growth of family-sustaining careers. We will fulfill this mission by leading regional efforts to foster the growth of existing businesses and attract new businesses to this area. However, no effort is more crucial to success than our talent initiatives.

Our comprehensive strategic planning efforts in 2019 made it clear that our region’s most significant need and top priority is to expand and improve our workforce. Businesses large and small, corporations and nonprofit employers have all implored us to focus our efforts on talent.

Our talent initiatives are multi-faceted: We need to attract more workers to this area, we need to develop stronger skills in our current workforce, we need to grow our future workforce through comprehensive education solutions, internships and apprenticeship programs.  Most certainly, we need to be a community that is welcoming to diverse people of all backgrounds.

The benchmarking and research we conducted shows that for both cities and rural areas, a comprehensive plan for talent attraction and development is the foremost concern for regional growth and prosperity. The most critical first step in this process is a regional collaboration effort to tell a compelling “career story” and develop a brand for why new graduates and mid-career professionals should consider an area. We have learned from other regions of the country this simple truth: Jobs follow talent.

Ithaca is a rare spot of economic growth in upstate New York. This region is growing its talent pool by leveraging their greatest asset: the alumni networks of Cornell and Ithaca colleges. They actively promote their region to alumni by contrasting the career and quality of life opportunities in upstate New York with the grind of working in a big city. While this region is not a perfect match for our area (they have smaller lakes, but bigger colleges), we can learn from their example. One of our biggest assets is our own alumni network of sorts – the “diaspora” of people from all over the world that love northern Michigan. We can tell a compelling career story to the vast network of people that vacation here, have a second home, visit family or attend an event.

Bend, Oregon has become one of the fastest-growing regions in the country and is expanding its workforce by promoting a combination of an attractive natural environment with an intentional focus on trailing spouse and family support. We share many of the same quality of life attributes as Bend. Traverse Connect is partnering with their economic development company, EDCO, on incorporating trailing spouse/duel career solutions into our planning and storytelling.

Cincinnati has one of the strongest economies in the Midwest and they have found success attracting talented workers and retaining the students that come through their colleges by doing something radical: Organizations across their community are working together! Leaders across Cincinnati realized that to improve talent development, they needed all regional entities to present a unified message to career seekers. The same positive career story is told by company CEOs, the mayor, college presidents, county officials and developers across their community.

It is vital for the future economic success, community vibrancy and environmental sustainability of our region that we attract and retain more skilled workers, professionals, and remote workers. We can learn from these other regions and seize the opportunity for private businesses, public entities and nonprofits to work collectively to develop an overarching theme for talent development and a compelling career story for the Grand Traverse region. This is an all-hands-on-deck request: Please help us to write a compelling career story – a story that we develop collaboratively, own collectively and tell consistently across the region, the state and the country. We can be known as a place with excellent career opportunities to match our exceptional quality of life. We can be known as a place for a career with a view.

Warren Call is the president/CEO of Traverse Connect, a regional economic development organization that includes the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and Venture North. Contact him at warren.call@traverseconnect.org.