Invest in What We Have

Wow – what a list! It is no surprise that each of the professionals featured in this month's issue is considered to be among the most influential professionals under the age of 40.

Business owners consistently cite access to "talent" among their top issues and their employees as their "number one asset."

Michigan has multiple initiatives underway to recruit talent from beyond the state and even outside the country. Lew Glazer, president of Michigan Future, has said for more than a decade that Michigan "must get younger and smarter" if it is to compete with other states, regions, and countries.

This month, the Chamber launched a new publication called "Careers in Partnership" with MyNorth Media – a magazine that brands the Grand Traverse region and validates that one can enjoy all that northern Michigan has to offer and have a rewarding career, as well. However, growing talent is not just about recruitment from outside the state. The highest level of return will come from retaining skilled workers and nurturing existing talent, including preparing them for leadership opportunities.

The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce has long identified its prestigious Leadership Grand Traverse (LGT) program as its flagship leadership development tool. However, LGT represents just a portion of what's available for developing leaders. Other relevant programs include peer-to-peer CEO Roundtables, a model young professionals program, boards, committees, and more.

Local leadership programming remains disconnected, however, and relevant programming is not linked specifically to leadership. Whether one is an emerging leader, looking to develop their leadership in the community, or seeking to completely transform their organization at the highest level, the Chamber has just the right tools, programs, and resources.

Last year, the Chamber launched the value-added component to its leadership programming. The Leadership Continuum was designed to fit in a regional framework and to complement other leadership development opportunities beyond the Chamber's footprint.

There are a number of solid organizations in this region committed to fostering home-grown talent. Elaine Wood, CEO of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the state's new Talent Investment Board. Northwestern Michigan College is developing talent every day with its quality programming and its president, Tim Nelson, has made the college's role in attracting, retaining, and creating talent a top priority.

Truly, the opportunities are endless for the region to invest in its greatest asset: its people.

Talent: without it there can be no discussion of prosperity, regional economies, social justice, or any of the other forces in play as the area grows. Businesses, governments, nonprofits and other institutions must invest in their employees, demand employee excellence within their organizations, and look within their own region for powerful leadership development opportunities. Fortunately, there is an incredible pool of talent from which to draw – just turn the pages and see for yourself!

Laura Oblinger is the chief operating officer for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.