Recognizing our Community’s A-List and Following Their Example

An effective way of bringing attention to something or helping commit it to memory is to make a list. Santa Claus is a well-known list maker, and he checks his twice. And who doesn’t remember going into the Post Office as a youngster and warily gazing at the nefarious individuals posted on the infamous “Ten Most Wanted” list.

Media outlets frequently use lists to highlight everything from popular destinations to the best restaurants to the top news stories in a particular year. The Traverse City Business News is particularly adept at utilizing lists to highlight different facets of the local business community. The TCBN’s yearly “40 Under 40” list recognizes many of our area’s rising stars in the business sector. Last month’s issue debuted “50 Leading Women of Business” featuring area women described as “leaders, pioneers, involved community members and role models” in our region. We’re proud to note that several individuals on those lists have been an integral part of the Chamber’s success over the years.

The Chamber and other business organizations use this technique as well. Each year we recognize a few dozen area small businesses that take part in our annual Small Business Celebration. Those businesses are pared down to a “Top 10” list from which the Chamber eventually honors the Hagerty Small Business of the Year. It’s a great experience for all the participants and we really enjoy recognizing these companies who play such an important role in driving the regional economy.

It’s also important to recognize that such lists are rarely all-inclusive. More often than not, such rankings represent the proverbial tip of the iceberg, and only a small sample size of a much larger group of influence and impact. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, for example, is an index of 30 large publicly-traded companies commonly used as a general economic indicator. But there are tens of thousands of private and public companies big and small that actually drive the country’s economy.

In the Chamber’s example, the relative handful of companies that take part in the Small Business Celebration represent only a fraction of the small businesses that comprise the backbone of Northwest Michigan’s economy. The intent of creating the Small Business Celebration 13 years ago wasn’t just to highlight the companies that participate – although we do enjoy tooting their horn. But the overarching goal is to highlight the full spectrum of the region’s small business community, and remind everyone of all the amazing entrepreneurs – and their employees – that power our area’s economic engine.

Lists and rankings are an effective way to tell a story, to highlight trends and recognize amazing people who do wonderful things. They can establish benchmarks, and set examples for others to follow. They can inspire others to reach new heights in their personal and professional lives. But there are plenty of entertaining films that don’t get Oscars, lots of great music without a Grammy and delicious places to eat that don’t boast a James Beard Award. In the end, it’s both the leaders that make a community what it is and the followers they touch and inspire.

Doug Luciani is the CEO of Traverse CONNECT and the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at