‘Michigan’s Creative Coast’ aims to enhance region’s creative and cultural economy

We find ourselves in trying times, with unprecedented public health challenges and historic economic uncertainty.

Let’s be honest: As difficult as the current situation is, living in northern Michigan was never easy. We are a remote community far from large metro areas and the traditional centers of commerce. Even with a world-class airport, getting here is not always straightforward; we lack significant rail infrastructure and freeway access. Just making it through the winter can sometimes be an epic accomplishment all in itself.

The realities of life in our area have a profound impact on our community’s character. The many challenges we face breed a certain resiliency and a strong creative streak across the region because we must figure out unique ways to “make it” here.

Creativity is also on display in our institutions, a community college that is so much more than the qualifier “community” suggests, a world-renowned center for arts education, a film festival, museums and galleries … the list goes on. We have cultural amenities that rival many much larger cities.

Our community’s creativity is what sets us apart. It is a unique value proposition and a key differentiator as we compete in the world economy. We can leverage our creative and cultural assets to advance the economic and community vitality of the Grand Traverse region.

We are “Michigan’s Creative Coast.”

The Creative Coast is a new Traverse Connect initiative designed to enhance our region’s creative and cultural economy, supported with funding from the MEDC’s Michigan Film & Digital Media  Office. It is a community-wide effort that will help to bolster our reputation as a year-round economic destination with an attractive quality of life, cultural offerings and family-sustaining careers.

Creative Coast efforts will highlight our existing creative and entrepreneurial culture by sharing the incredible stories of our innovative businesses, local artists and imaginative leaders across the region. Our creative sector is broader than artists and performing venues; creativity permeates through local software development, manufacturing, video production and advertising.

Programming launches this summer with the Creative Coast podcast. This 12-part series explores the stories of creative  entrepreneurs  who made this area their home and who have brought with them exciting new ideas,  interests, inspirations  and innovations.

We will also be publishing a guide to the region’s great creatives to highlight the wealth of professionals and entrepreneurs thriving here. By showcasing our existing creative and innovative professionals, we can have a leg up on attracting new business to the region as well.

Later this year, we will introduce Michigan’s Creative Coast online. This website will highlight the impressive lifestyle, entrepreneurial culture and business opportunities in the area, specifically in the tech ecosystem, traded industries, and creative sectors, as well as the region’s cultural and artistic vibrancy. We have a great story to tell and we can use this to our advantage  to promote and attract new businesses.

Perhaps most impactful, the Creative Coast will help our region attract creative talent. Our vibrant cultural community is one of the greatest assets we have.

By placing Creative Coast on the map, we will attract more talented people and more high-quality workers who are considering a move away from bigger cities and other regions. A Creative Coast newsletter is already reaching this potential workforce and the new website will include a talent portal listing jobs in creative industry careers. These efforts will also focus on our desirability as a location for remote work. We can appeal to the growing population of mobile workers and encourage them to bring their jobs and great ideas to our region.

Supporting our creative economy  businesses and workers  is important not only for contributing to the economy but for ensuring vibrancy in our rural communities. The Creative Coast will uplift our existing makers, creators and entrepreneurs. We will harness our well-developed creative industry and our innovative nature to attract new business and dynamic individuals to the region. We will bolster our economic opportunities and further strengthen our cultural and artistic vibrancy, thereby improving our overall quality of life.

Now, if we could just do something about the long winters …

Warren Call is the president/CEO of Traverse Connect, a regional economic development organization that includes the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and Venture North. Contact him at warren.call@traverseconnect.org.

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