The Place We All Want to Live

The Place We All Want to Live

Northern Michigan towns are growing like never before;

it's time to nurture what makes them so special

There is a lot of talk these days about the concept of "place." Consultants are hired and symposiums are taught so that we can all strive to have that wonderful "sense of place" in our communities.

Symposiums discussing placemaking were held in Petoskey and Traverse City last month and hosted by the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments. While I truly valued these placemaking conversations, I walked away from the event thinking, "We already get it."

In fact, we've had it for a long time. When you look around Petoskey and the neighboring communities of Bay Harbor, Bay View, and Harbor Springs, they ooze a sense of place. As you expand your view a little farther to Boyne City, Charlevoix, Elk Rapids, Traverse City and beyond, you'll see that this region has established a niche of being the place where people want to be.

Mother Nature played a big role in helping to shape our sense of place. However, we have done an equally good job of maintaining this area's historic character. We also continue to nurture a community of fine arts and entertainment. Local units of government have done an outstanding job of developing our parks and natural areas into pristine recreational places.

Sense of place? Yes, we have it. So now we need to pay attention to demographic trends and how these trends fit in with our community's sense of place. Young people are now choosing where to live before they choose a career. There is a movement back to more urban living. Automobile use and ownership is on the decline.

In addition, people are trying to find a third place beyond their home and work where they can hang out and spend time. And there is clearly a movement toward a more active and healthy lifestyle filled with recreation and an emphasis on local foods.

I feel the Petoskey region is in a position to grow because of these demographic trends. We certainly have some work to do, but I think Petoskey is a community that is on the leading edge of these trends. But it's not going to happen naturally. Local organizations need to work together to make sure that we're nurturing that sense of place so that it meets the needs of our residents and guests today, and attracts our residents of tomorrow.

The Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce looks forward to being the force that brings these organizations together to enhance our 'place.' Yes, we have a great sense of place in and around Petoskey, and now it's time to use it to an even greater advantage to grow our local economy.

Carlin Smith is president of the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce.