‘Vision’ puts region ahead of curve

During times of economic hardship people are forced to think about things in different ways to remain viable and successful. Real estate is obviously one area of the economy experiencing significant changes in the way it is viewed, both internally and externally. The continuous improvement programs and waste reduction programs of the last 35 years prevalent in manufacturing, and then the service industry, have finally migrated their way into the real estate industry. Doing business the same old wasteful way is not going to be productive or sustainable. Clearly, REALTORS® along with everybody else in the real estate transaction process, are making significant adjustments to the way they do business as digital technology and information change their world view.

Many in the real estate industry consider the smart growth movement to be an answer for the demands being placed on consumers and communities by the economic strain we're currently feeling. Building safe, healthy and livable communities seems to be growing in popularity all over the globe. Communities that have embraced these smart growth trends seem to be the communities that are weathering this current economic crisis in a better way than their counterparts. Why? Because they have created the types of communities where the new consumer wants to live, work and play.

This trend, especially toward play, seems to hold true in our regional Grand Traverse community. After attending the 8th Annual New Partners for Smart growth conference in Albuquerque, NM in January, it became clear that the Grand Traverse region is ahead of the curve because of its exemplary work on the Grand Vision program. Several of the presenters and subject matter experts were very familiar with the Grand Vision project and lauded the level of community interest. This visioning program, supported by the regional REALTOR® community, started as a transportation program and morphed into a much larger visioning program that culminated in four basic scenarios for how we expect to grow and sustain our regional communities and economies

The mantra repeated in Albuquerque time and again was that, "transportation drives development; it's not the other way around." Communities who adopt a progressive transportation plan, and use that plan as a blueprint for developing the housing choices for that community based on access to transportation solutions, will likely be the communities to benefit the most in future years.

Fortunately, the Traverse region appears to be one of those communities that has taken the preliminary steps toward developing a plan that will place at the forefront economic and real estate development opportunities for years to come.

As a consequence, we continue to see the pent-up demand of people who visit our real estate marketplace on a regular basis via the Internet. The Traverse Area Association of REALTORS® logs thousands of hits a week on its web site (www.taar.com) from potential consumers both inside and outside the regional community. This would indicate a high desire for this market by consumers looking to possibly relocate their families and businesses or perhaps to purchase vacation and second-home opportunities within our region.

At a time when the rest of Michigan is losing jobs and population, the Traverse region continues to be relatively stable and attractive in the sale and transfer of real property. Embracing the changing trends and providing what new consumers desire, such as regional transportation systems, free wireless broadband connectivity, local foods and regionally controlled alternative energy solutions, will all enhance the desirability of this region.

The job of the real estate community will be to investigate the trends, disseminate the information, make detailed information about properties more available to the consumer and provide local expertise at a regional level to provide additional benefit to the consumer.

This means REALTORS® will be working with local, state and federal government officials, urban and rural planners, transportation professionals, environmentalists, health professionals, and energy specialists in alternative energy systems, commercial/residential builders and a myriad of other specialists in a collaborative way that will help develop and promote the sustainability of our regional communities.

Award-winning campaigns such as the Pure Michigan© campaign continue to help this region remain stable, and we will likely develop additional economic benefit ahead of other areas of the country as we work toward a national economic recovery. Developing the right types of communities can only mean opportunities and jobs for future generations so that they, too, may live, work, play and thrive in what is arguably one of the finest areas of our nation.

Kim Pontius is the Executive Vice President of the Traverse Area Association of Realtors.