Measuring Our Community’s Success

“Measurables” are important things in today’s world. Whether applied in professional or personal settings, it’s critical to have access to reliable, fact-based data to help make informed decisions going forward.

If your goal is to improve your health and fitness, it’s important to know measurables such as your body weight and fat content, caloric intake, exercise activity and so on. Any successful business draws from all sorts of measurables like income statements, expenses reports, overhead, depreciation and other financial and operational information that companies use to track their progress.

As the Grand Traverse region embarks on new strategies and initiatives to bolster economic development, both the private and public sectors will be asked to invest in those efforts to build more balance, diversity and community capital into our area economy. Local business and civic leaders also have a responsibility to ensure that those investments are producing results – tangible returns on investment – and not generating unforeseen or undesirable consequences.

Likewise, those efforts must be effectively monitored to gauge what’s working and what isn’t, and altered as necessary to achieve maximum impact.

Creating those measurables also takes time and effort, but they are a lynch pin to the success of any regional economic growth strategy. Fortunately, the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, under the leadership of President/CEO Dave Mengebier, is helping to organize a Community Development Coalition that will create the kind of measurables that help both the private and public sectors track our community’s strengths and weaknesses, and determine what’s working well and where we can do better.

The Community Development Coalition acknowledges a region blessed with vibrant leaders and organizations within the private, public and non-profit sectors. But it also points out that without a mechanism to track metrics, these sectors often work independently and miss opportunities for interactive strategies and approaches to drive better outcomes for the regional economy, environment and the community as a whole.

The vision is to tap the strength of working together to generate transformational change for northwest Michigan. The goal is to create an effective community coalition of influential partners working collaboratively to:

  • Identify and find consensus on key development goals and strategies in the community.
  • Coordinate communication, policy, resources and support among coalition member organizations and others.
  • Track and report progress on community development goals and milestones.

The coalition is designed with broad cross-sector representation including leaders from the business, education, local government, tourism, public health, social service and other sectors working to develop a community scorecard. Separate scorecards will be created for the region’s economic, environmental and societal interests that identify a lead agency, primary partners in the efforts, specific goals being sought and a series of key performance indicators to measure progress toward those targets.

The scorecards will offer a simple, trackable framework for establishing and charting progress on the economic, environmental and societal goals for our region – the measurables that any entity needs to quantify progress – or lack of it. Plus, it creates a communication tool and accountability measuring stick for these organizations and their leaders – and the community – to monitor the success of these initiatives, look at what’s working and what isn’t, and make necessary adjustments going forward.

As our region launches its most ambitious initiative to date to grow, guide and strengthen its economic landscape and community well-being, it’s equally important to utilize our existing local resources to gauge our progress. Private, public and non-profit investment and commitment, along with community buy-in, will be critical to these economic development efforts – as will creating the measurables to chart their results.

Warren Call is the president and CEO of TraverseCONNECT, a regional economic development organization that includes the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and Venture North. Contact him at