Plenty Of Work To Do In 2015

By Doug Luciani

It was nice to see – people exiting the Traverse City Area Chamber’s Economic Outlook breakfast last month with some upbeat business data and trends to feel good about. It was a welcome change from the forecasts that ranged from tepid to downright gloomy since the throes of the Great Recession just six years ago.

No one’s yet dancing in the streets, but there’s little question that Michigan’s economic fortunes are on an upswing. Of course rising optimism is typically accompanied by rising expectations, so the Traverse City Chamber and its partners in the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance will call on those representing us in Lansing to accelerate their efforts to keep Michigan on the path to economic recovery.

Alliance leaders met in late November to craft their legislative priorities for 2015. It’s a varied but very much achievable platform that includes:

  • Investment and improvements to Michigan’s infrastructure. Much of the current focus is on funding road and bridge repairs, and signs are pointing to a possible major road funding breakthrough in this year’s post-election legislative session. But northern Michigan’s infrastructure needs go beyond roads and bridges. It must also include our airports, rail system, harbors and broadband network – all as updated as possible as they are critical cogs in our region’s economy.
  • Expanded workforce development efforts. Michigan needs a two-pronged approach to this vital and growing challenge. It needs to overhaul its education and training process to produce skilled workers for the changing job requirements in fields that include manufacturing, health care, construction, agriculture and other fields. The state also needs to find more people – domestic and foreign – to fill an emerging workforce shortage and make sure its companies have the human resources they need to help them grow.
  • Improved equity in education funding continues to be a major priority for the Alliance. It will continue to advocate closing the state per-pupil equity gap in K-12 public education funding that results in budget shortfalls and operational challenges for numerous school districts in northern Michigan.
  • Access to affordable and reliable energy. This is among the top priorities as reliable and affordable energy is a lifeline to any business. Spikes in energy costs or interruptions in energy supplies create ripples that spread well beyond the business sector and into everyone’s pocketbook. The country is making tremendous strides in energy exploration which need to result in improved reliability and better pricing. All sources of energy need to be maximized, and efforts toward efficiency redoubled.

If Michigan can improve its infrastructure, find and develop a more capable workforce, better its education system and ensure that energy is available and affordable, it should continue to grow its economy and better the fortunes of its business sector and its residents.

Doug Luciani is President & CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at