Grand Traverse By 2030: Planning A Decade Of Sustainable Economic Development

Traverse City Business News
Traverse City Business News
By Warren Call
In Issue 2019 September 

An effective economic growth strategy is akin to taking on a major construction project in that it needs to be erected on a solid foundation to endure and remain functional and relevant over time.

After months of work and research from top-rated professionals drawing input from dozens of community leaders, TraverseCONNECT has laid that foundation.

In mid-September, its board of directors will finalize and adopt a new three-year strategic plan based on extensive research of the demographic, economic and historical trends of the Grand Traverse region. It will outline the strategic priorities for the organization and detail the specific action steps needed to implement a comprehensive economic development strategy for our community.

Importantly, this plan will also include the key goals and outcome metrics that will be achieved as a result of implementing the strategic planning initiatives. In short, it will define what future success looks like for our region.

We have a bold but attainable goal: By 2030, the Grand Traverse region will be a top economic destination with a balanced and diversified regional economy enjoying sustainable growth powered by high-margin, growth-oriented enterprises and a robust culture that attracts and retains the families that empower them.

To do this will mean:

  • Creating a diversified, value-driven economy. We need to foster growth in traded industries that bring value to the economy from outside of the region.
  • Growing regional businesses that create family-sustaining jobs. We need growing firms, generating new wealth, and creating competitive-wage, year-round jobs and high revenue per employee.
  • Retaining and growing the number of working families in the region. We need to reverse the current trend of losing key working age people, which puts stress on local school systems, public liabilities, and exacerbates our growing workforce gap.

Growth will come primarily from new and existing firms that create high-value tradable goods and services for export outside the region, such as business-to-business products and services, communications technology, research and development, and manufacturing, as well as follow-on growth of local service, supplier, and vendor firms. These companies will provide nationally competitive compensation, high revenue per employee, and year-round job opportunities. Industry clusters developed in partnership with educational and entrepreneurial organizations will be significant to brand the region as a highly desirable place to live and work.

Additional wealth and prosperity in the region will result in significant community benefits including expanded local government tax base, nonprofit/charitable sustainability, infrastructure improvements and broad enhancement of regional culture and quality of life.

Transformational growth will result in significant economic gains for the region across several key outcome metrics, including increased educational attainment, growth of the prime working age population of 35-49 year-olds, increased GDP per employee, and growth in professional, scientific, technical and IT jobs.

TraverseCONNECT will lead this decade of growth by focusing on key initiatives to help existing businesses to expand, talent attraction to promote the region as a career destination, and business attraction to market the region to prospective high-growth companies.

TraverseCONNECT has worked closely with stakeholders across the community over the course of six months to create a thoroughly vetted and implementable strategic plan. From revamping operations and programs, to adding new staff capabilities, to strengthening processes and systems, the organization is poised for growth.

To accomplish these critical goals, TraverseCONNECT will need to increase its budget by demonstrating very clear return on investment to our private, nonprofit and public sector supporters. Those partners and the community as a whole will also need to realize that change will not come immediately; it will take time to build TraverseCONNECT into the organization that this plan envisions.

The degree to which investors are willing to take a measured approach and make a long-term commitment will have a significant impact on TraverseCONNECT’s ability to build the organizational infrastructure up front that is required to create a robust and effective economic development organization for the future of the Grand Traverse region.

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