Multi-media project highlights millennials making an impact

It’s no secret that Traverse City is getting older. In 2015, residents age 18-34 made up 21 percent of Grand Traverse County’s population. By 2025, that is forecasted to decrease to 20 percent and by 2040 to 19 percent according to projections from the University of Michigan.

Conversely, residents age 65+ are forecasted to increase to 21.5 percent of the population by 2025, and to 23 percent by 2040. That is from a starting point of 16.6 percent in 2015. The New Economy project hopes to challenge this trend.

The project is an online multi-media series of stories, videos and commentary aimed to highlight local young professionals and their contributions to the community, as well as examine the challenges to attracting more of them. It was launched in December by the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and Stone Hut Studios, a local video production company founded by Aaron Dennis.

Through its series of four feature videos, New Economy shares the stories of local young professionals, with specialties ranging from farming to technology to the arts, and what attracted them to, or back to, the area. It also highlights the impact they are having on the community and local economy, and their vision for the place that they fondly call home.

In addition to the feature videos, the New Economy project includes a weekly blog that poses tough questions, as well as a weekly Facebook Live series featuring conversations with not only young professionals, but community leaders and business innovators who discuss these important topics.

“The New Economy project’s goals are two-fold,” said Jacob Wheeler, Groundwork’s communications manager. “The first is to feature young professionals and millennials who have moved back home and triumphed. We want to show that we are not just a tourism destination. You can come back here and raise a family. Use your skills. Start a company.

“The second is to facilitate discussions amongst community leaders. We’re trying to be one of the brokers of the conversation,” he said. “If we connect together to solve the problem, we can attract the workforce of tomorrow.”

To reach its intended audience, the New Economy project is capitalizing on what Forbes noted as one of the top four millennial social media trends to watch in 2017 – live video.

While pretty much every major social media platform offers the ability to share video content in real-time, the New Economy project is going with Facebook’s version, Facebook Live. And with good reason. According to a survey Pew conducted last spring, 88% of internet users age 18-29 use Facebook, compared to Instagram at 59% and Twitter at 36%.

With Facebook Live, users have the capability to stream live video without having to download a separate app to their phone. To share a live video on Facebook, one simply taps on Update Status, and then select the Live Video icon. When you are done recording, you tap “finish” and the live feed is done – yet the video stays on your page for others to view later. It’s that simple.

So far, the number of folks tuning into New Economy’s Facebook Live interviews has been minimal, but viewership of the interviews at a later time has been strong. The February interview with TC Young Professionals chair, Lauren Harris, for example, attracted 15-20 live viewers, but since then, the video has garnered over 1,500 views.

If anyone knows the value of online video in reaching young professionals, it’s Fernando Meza, CEO of the digital marketing firm, OneUpWeb, and a young transplant to the area himself. In 2016, Meza’s company produced more online videos, both for its clients and itself, than in its entire history.

Meza is complimentary of the New Economy project.

“They are doing things in a way that is more relevant these days,” Meza says. “They are telling stories that appeal to a broader audience, and filling in the gaps that currently are left wide open.”

So why live video?

Wheeler likes its simplicity. “Facebook Live is so easy. Just prop up your phone and start shooting. You do not have to spend a few hours editing and exporting a video onto You Tube before going live.”

Meza likes it for other reasons as well.

“Facebook is the largest media company that exists now,” he said. “With Facebook alone, the potential for reach is not there as it is for video. Facebook Live is still very much in a growth stage, but it enables a company to cast an even wider net.”

“You kind of have to jump in,” Meza added. “It’s live. You cannot be worried about that. Viewers know it’s live and they give a certain amount of grace for that. Its unpolished nature makes it authentic and genuine, and millennials generally gravitate toward that.”

There’s also the benefit that at least currently, Facebook Live videos are likely to get placed higher in the newsfeed than other videos.

To see the New Economy project’s feature videos, weekly blog posts or to learn when the next Facebook Live chat is, go to