One Size Does Not Fit All

By Kent Wood

Most every consumer has cast a wary eye toward a product or service labeled as “One Size Fits All.” Life experience tells us there are few things that work well in all situations. More often than not a solution for one situation can produce far different results when utilized in vastly different circumstances.

That’s a focus of the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance as we announce our 2017 state legislative priorities. Michigan lawmakers faced two major crises that justifiably consumed a lion’s share of their attention and resources – the Detroit bankruptcy two years ago and more recently the Flint water contamination.

Those challenges are far from fully resolved. But this year should allow our state an opportunity to step back and assess statewide needs and priorities – which brings us back to the premise that communities away from Michigan’s major metropolitan areas have their own challenges and circumstances where one size does not fit all. We see it all the time in economic development situations that range from head-scratching housing incentive requirements, to unusable business expansion incentives, to burdensome small business gap financing regulations.

That’s why the Traverse City Area Chamber and the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance will focus our advocacy efforts on right-sized solutions that take good ideas being used in other parts of the state and shape them to work in our region. The major goal includes changing or creating rural development and housing incentives that are compatible with rural areas, including:

  • Defending downtown development authorities and tax increment financing.
  • Enhanced Brownfield redevelopment tools.
  • Region-specific job growth incentives.
  • Regional workforce and “Missing Middle” housing incentives.
  • Training and talent attraction programs and incentives.
  • Less cumbersome Access to Capital programs.

Because you can’t have sustained growth without investment, we’re also pushing for action on state infrastructure and education investment that helps northern Michigan compete in a global economy, including:

  • Supporting outcomes of the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission that benefit northern Michigan or target rural communities, such as increasing access to high-speed broadband and fiber internet, and urging Congress to fund a new Soo Lock
  • Defending northern Michigan communities from changes to Public Act 51 – the transportation funding formula that provides transportation revenue to local governments.
  • Narrowing the gap in K-12 per pupil funding.
  • Investing in our region’s higher education institutions, including NMC’s 21st Center Innovation Center.

Other issues on the Alliance radar seek to improve northern Michigan’s overall business climate, including state policies that:

  • Protect state and federal funding for rural hospitals.
  • Advocate for safe, reliable and affordable energy policy.
  • Promote investment in tourism and agri-tourism industries, including maintaining the Pure Michigan campaign funding levels, improving the H2B guest visa program, and seeking competitive tax policy for our growing craft beer, wine and distilling industries.

Much of our time and effort will be spent emphasizing to lawmakers that challenges to northern Michigan’s business sector – and opportunities for growth and success – can be regional in nature, and one idea or program good for urban areas may need some tweaks to make it useful in a rural setting.

The key is to find solutions and initiatives that are compatible for our communities in northern Michigan. That is what we intend to fight for.

Kent Wood is Director of Government Relations for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance. Contact him at