To Whom Much Is Given, Much is Expected

As we reflect on 2019 and look to 2020, we have an exciting opportunity to chart a course for what the next decade will look like for the Grand Traverse area.

We have momentum across the region with economic success, new business and community support systems, greater visibility on the world stage, and increased population and capital attraction.

But as the saying goes, to whom much is given, much is expected. We need to act responsibly with the incredible gifts we have been given, both our natural resources and our cultural and community assets. We need to be thoughtful and intentional about the community we want to hand down to our children and grandchildren. In short, we need to look after this place for the next generation.

A broad coalition of the business community, key institutional employers, nonprofit leaders and private citizens have come together to clearly articulate what success should look like in the future. We are committed to making the Grand Traverse region a top economic destination with a diversified economy powered by growth-oriented enterprises providing family-sustaining careers.

The community is aligned and working together on a comprehensive set of programs to bring this vision to fruition. Strategy sessions in 2020, covering talent initiatives and business expansion and attraction will provide a forum for discussion and outline specific action items to ensure that the Grand Traverse region remains a dynamic community with a vibrant and growing economy.

It will take collaboration and involvement from across the community for these efforts to succeed.

Success will require community-wide commitment to make this a welcoming place to people of all backgrounds. It is vitally important that we keep our doors open to new ideas, new people and new growth opportunities. We need to be intentional about attracting skilled workers and entrepreneurs to the Grand Traverse region by displaying a welcoming and open for business attitude.

We need engagement of our mature workers and retired population. This group of professionals bring incredibly valuable expertise from careers around the world and around the corner, a commitment to volunteering and mentoring, and capital investment for growing companies.

Public sector officials need to be engaged in finding ways to say yes to progress and growth. The vast majority of year-round residents, business owners and employees are not at government commission meetings or black-tie events. They are too busy working, running our impressive organizations and raising their kids. But they care about the future of this region and they want to see public officials chart a course forward to a vibrant and growing community.

We should continue to be thankful for our visitors who are vitally important to sustaining our economy, quality of life, and cultural diversity. We also need comprehensive policies to address the needs of the year-round population that sticks around after the weather turns cold. When the gala events of July are a distant memory, these people are still here strapping the kids into snow pants and getting them off to school so they can get to work and make payroll in January.

We can continue to be a great place to visit, a great place to retire and a great place to have a summer home, while also being a great place to educate our children, build a career and scale a business.

Locals, visitors, seasonal residents and retirees alike understand the opportunities and challenges we face and the importance of fostering appropriate growth. We are a world-class destination because of the quality of our community – a community that can only continue to thrive if we have a vibrant and robust year-round, working-age population.

By working together on a shared vision of success in true public-private partnership, across industry groups, across municipal boundaries, and across the community, we will drive success in 2020 and through the next decade.

Warren Call is the president/CEO of Traverse Connect, a regional economic development organization that includes the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and Venture North. Contact him at warren.call@traverseconnect.org.

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