Making an Impact in 2018 and Beyond

There are all sorts of axioms, proverbs and “old sayings” that underscore a very basic truism – it’s better to be in on the front end of a decision than trying to reverse or work around it once made.

It’s certainly true in business. A day rarely goes by that owners, stockholders, managers, employees and customers aren’t impacted by laws, regulations, administrative orders, zoning rules, health codes, policy decisions or other action taken somewhere on how they do business. Unfortunately, most of those business people spend their time doing their jobs and growing their companies. It’s difficult for them to keep track of all the things going on at a local city hall, a state capital or in Congress affecting business and commerce – much less offer a meaningful voice in how those decisions are made.

That’s why it’s important for business people to stay involved in organizations that work on their behalf. The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce has been in existence for more than 100 years. It, along with its parent organization TraverseCONNECT, has always considered business advocacy among its top priorities. It’s also prided itself in seeking non-partisan approaches to business and community challenges and opportunities, creating strong alliances with representatives across the political spectrum. The Chamber has also been an impact player on issues that some may not immediately associate with the business bottom line, immersed in areas including early childhood development and child care, innovative community growth and development, energy, education, public transportation and others.

That work is more important now than ever. In 2018 and beyond TraverseCONNECT, primarily but not exclusively through the Chamber and the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance, will be accelerating and intensifying those efforts to make sure the region’s business sector maintains a strong, consistent and impactful voice with local, state and federal decision makers.

Among the new initiatives to implement those measures is the formation of a Political Action Committee (PAC) by TraverseCONNECT. The PAC, to be directed by an advisory committee that reports to the TraverseCONNECT board of directors, will support candidates and issues that strengthen northern Michigan’s economy and the businesses that power our region. It’s a common sense step in the evolution of TraverseCONNECT as an economic development catalyst. It is important to note that the PAC is completely separate from any of TraverseCONNECT’s subsidiaries, including the Chamber. All PAC expenditures and administrative expenses will be paid by separate contributions made directly to the PAC. No dues or other types of investments in the Chamber or TraverseCONNECT will be used for PAC activities, or expenditures to candidates or issue campaigns.

We will continue to work with elected and appointed leaders on both sides of the aisle to advocate for our members. Despite great strides being made in growing the Grand Traverse area’s economy, the business sector too often finds itself on the defensive against anti-business rhetoric and initiatives that would be harmful to job creators and their employees, as well as to the communities in which we live.

With the alliance, we’ll keep pursuing our highly effective “one size does not fit all” legislative advocacy strategy that’s gotten the attention of lawmakers both in Lansing and in Washington. We’ve successfully convinced our legislators the region needs right-sized solutions that can be effective in rural, less-populated areas for issues like economic development incentives, housing development, education and child care. People inside the Lansing beltway tell us that the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance is among the more influential business organizations in the state capitol. Our intent is to build on that momentum going forward.

So it’s an ambitious agenda that lies ahead – but a critical one if we want to keep northwest Michigan on an economic upswing. We’ve successfully carved out a seat at the decision-making tables, and it’s time to be an even stronger voice for business.

Doug Luciani is CEO of TraverseCONNECT, a regional economic development organization that includes the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, Venture North, and TraverseCONNECT Development, Inc. Contact him at