Beauty and Brains – Traverse City Has It All

OblingerThe Traverse City region is best known as a resort community. That’s not surprising given its incredible annual swell of summer tourists and seasonal residents, and inclusion among a seemingly endless string of “must see” and “best of” lists popping up around the country in recent years.

All that may put us on the national map. But to paraphrase a bit from scripture, a community does not thrive by bays and beaches alone. While there are plenty of scenic locales around Michigan and the Midwest, few of them have the economic horsepower, intellectual capital and cultural offerings we can boast here in the Grand Traverse area. This month’s Traverse City Business News highlights the tremendous community asset that is our region’s talented and dedicated professional ranks, specifically in the fields of health care, banking and finance, and our legal, accounting and insurance professions.

How do I know this? Because we see it here at the Chamber every day – and have throughout our 100-year history. Chamber records past and present are filled with the names and accomplishments of local physicians, bankers and lenders, attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, health care administrators and others who not only built success in their professions, but also from their commitment to the Chamber and the community over the years.

The important role these professionals and their organizations have played in the evolution of Traverse City go back to its earliest days. Town father Perry Hannah, who arrived in 1851 as a lumberman, launched the city’s first bank to infuse the monetary capital needed to create a community built to last. Mr. Hannah, who eventually served as a mayor and state legislator, would likely be impressed with how that investment has blossomed more than 160 years later.

Our region’s financial institutions have fueled the community’s evolution for decades. Our smaller, local banks and credit unions have been joined by some of the largest financial operations across the country and world that learned Northern Michigan is somewhere they should be doing business. National accounting and insurance firms have also entered the Northern Michigan market to augment our many local professional agencies. Again, the Chamber is fortunate to have the support and involvement of many of these professional service firms, both small and large.

Some of these institutions are as renowned as Traverse City itself. The Munson Healthcare regional network is recognized across Michigan and the U.S. for excellence in its field. Hometown insurance powerhouse Hagerty is the world’s leading provider of collector vehicle insurance, and does business all over the world.

But these professions aren’t just the bones and organs of our region. They’re also the lifeblood. Thousands of our area’s best-paying jobs and opportunities are provided by these professional organizations – the big ones and the small ones. Their leaders and employees are fueling the regional economy, paying taxes, raising families, volunteering, getting involved in their schools and neighborhoods, and much more.

Institutionally, they also contribute significant time and resources to an almost infinite list of community needs. And they’re supporting local organizations like the Chamber to keep our local economy strong and growing.
So while the beaches and bays will always be near the top of the list of what makes Traverse City special, it’s the people of a community and what they bring to it that make up its heart and soul. And that’s where we truly enjoy the best of both worlds.

Laura Oblinger is the Executive Director of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact her by email at