Thanks for the inspiration!

One of my weekly highlights is meeting and interviewing small business owners on the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur Focus program on WTCM. Each week we hear from people who so believe in themselves and their ideas that they are driven to change their lives. They ignore naysayers, and proceed, as if driven by an outside force-think Close Encounters of the Third Kind-to build a business out of nothing other than their gut feelings. These entrepreneurs inspire us, as they are living proof that hard work and persistence do pay off.

While reflecting on these stories, I realize the same personality types are responsible for some outstanding non-profit events in our community. Where the entrepreneurs create products and services, while providing jobs and taxes, the nonprofit visionaries create a growing awareness of Traverse City that attracts publicity and tourism dollars. They deserve a tip of the hat!

Mark Dressler and Matt Sutherland are two chums who, with their wives, enjoy a good bottle of wine, a well-prepared meal and perhaps a good cigar. Mark and Matt believed there was an audience that appreciated good food and good writing. Four years ago they launched the Traverse Epicurean Classic dedicated to celebrating the best of the new cookbooks, the authors, and their creations. The event was a success from the start, attracting an appreciative audience and raising money for the Great Lakes Culinary Institute. Through their vision and hard work, they attracted a small army of volunteers to see the event through. The event is gradually putting Traverse City and NMC's culinary institute on the national food map.

Pete Correia loves hockey. He's played it most of his life, still plays, and loves to watch it played. He thought Traverse City would make a good place for the Detroit Red Wings to hold training camp. He singlehandedly lobbied the organization for years. Just picked up the phone, eventually reached the top dog, and issued an invitation, which was not accepted. He persisted, sending promotional videos of Traverse City, along with a steady stream of correspondence pointing out the advantages to training in Traverse City. One day a new general manager agreed to visit this guy up in Traverse City. They played golf, and Pete sealed the deal. Through his leadership he was able to round up 600 volunteers to do everything from launder uniforms to chauffeur the players around town. That was 11 years ago. When September rolls around, Traverse City is as well known as Toronto among the elite minds of the National Hockey League. Before the Wings arrive, scouts, team management, and out-of-town media come to Hockeytown North to watch the hottest prospects in the world battle each other for a spot on an NHL team roster. These post-Labor Day events are eagerly anticipated by the hospitality industry.

Then there's the Traverse City Film Festival. Three guys, Doug Stanton, John Robert Williams and Michael Moore, thought it would be cool to have a film festival in Traverse City. Instead of forgetting the idea and returning to their daily routines, they pursued the idea and made it happen. While Moore's celebrity status brings a certain advantage to the table, there is no faking vision and leadership. His ability to attract, inspire and lead volunteers has made the festival a success, not to mention the restoration of the State Theatre.

The common denominators in all three stories are vision, leadership, and passion. None of these successful events were the result of community visioning sessions. None of the principles waited for a consensus before proceeding. The founders of these events were not driven to pad their resumes or gain profit. In all of the cases, the founders gave, and continue to give, hundreds of hours of their time without pay. They deserve our gratitude. Thanks for making Traverse City even better, and thanks for the inspiration.

It can be done!

Thank you, New York Times

In 2007, the New York Times published four major articles on the Grand Traverse Area. In July, in the Escapes section there was a long article on the local wine and cherry industry. A month later a profile of Mario Batali highlighted the Leelanau peninsula, the summer home of choice for the super chef and restaurant owner. Two weeks later, the town of Leland was profiled in a feature titled "Havens." Last month, Michael Moore and the State Theatre restoration were prominently featured. Traverse City was also featured in several Real Estate section articles dealing with summer homes. In one article it was mentioned with Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod and Hawaii as summer getaway destinations. And, in an October article the restoration and development of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons received a nice mention. BN

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