Warren Call: Fostering regional economic growth in 2024 and beyond – Traverse City Record Eagle

Editor’s note: This article was published in the Record-Eagle’s Economic Outlook 2023 section. For more stories, click here to read the section in its entirety online.


As Traverse Connect prepares to embark on its fifth year of regional economic development following our community-wide strategic plan, it’s a fitting time to reflect on the organization’s mission, partnerships, and the evolving economic landscape.

At the heart of Traverse Connect’s endeavors lies a deep commitment to supporting local businesses and dedication to ensuring their continued success.

Challenges are ever-present, but as a region, we have much to celebrate as we look forward to 2024, and we have a great opportunity to continue shaping a vibrant regional economy through collaborative partnerships, creative solutions, and a uniquely northern Michigan determination to overcome obstacles.

Traverse Connect’s core mission is to drive the growth of family-sustaining careers by supporting and nurturing the businesses that form the backbone of our region.

This involves advocating for employer-friendly policies at the state level, offering valuable professional development and networking opportunities, and striving to address various economic challenges. A vibrant regional economy starts with the businesses that operate within it.

One of Traverse Connect’s key initiatives is developing a robust talent pipeline to ensure the region has a steady supply of talented workers across industries.

This involves nurturing homegrown talent and attracting newcomers to the region, especially those with advanced skills. A thriving economy is dependent on having the right people in the right jobs.

The economic landscape in 2024 is markedly different from that we encountered when we reorganized in 2019.

In many ways, the Grand Traverse region was ahead of the state in facing population and demographic challenges – but we are now also further along in addressing the concerning trends. Employee recruitment, particularly in the hospitality and service sectors, and housing availability and affordability remain primary concerns. Yet our region has seen marked success in developing solutions.

Our community has come together with a unified voice to advocate for policy changes in Lansing. New, more flexible, and applicable housing development tools are now available to our cities, villages, and townships. Updated, more rural-friendly housing development regulations from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) and our regional housing development plan create a more favorable environment for workforce housing.

Talent attraction remains a top priority for Traverse Connect, and we are working in collaboration with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation on a new statewide initiative to make Michigan a more appealing and nationally recognized destination for talent.

The “You Can In Michigan” campaign includes a new website, themichiganlife.org, and leverages social media channels and resources that showcase the economic ecosystem partners in our region, such as 20Fathoms and Northwest Michigan Works.

A notable success story within the talent attraction efforts is Michigan’s Creative Coast.

This platform has seen impressive traction, with over 57,000 visits to its job board and more than 13,000 users viewing multiple job listings. It has become a valuable resource for both job seekers and employers.

Positive trends are visible in the region’s economic indicators. Over 50% of the population now holds a bachelor’s degree or post-secondary certificate, signaling a well-educated workforce.

The prime working-age population, aged 35-49, has increased by 3%, adding to the region’s labor force. We continued to add new job opportunities in scientific, professional, technical, and IT fields, reflecting a diverse and growing job market.

The GDP per employee has risen to nearly $70,000 per year, strengthening our region’s year-round economic vitality, and local average wages have grown faster than the state average.

Our positive dashboard metrics for 2023 are complimented by several noteworthy achievements in our economic development program.

The funding and construction of the Traverse City Freshwater Research and Innovation Center will be a massive catalyst for job growth, business development, and Great Lakes environmental stewardship.

The Fresh Coast Maritime Challenge grant program put our region on the map globally for sustainable maritime industry advancements, and we announced several development projects resulting in hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars of capital investment.

These milestones underscore Traverse Connect’s commitment to fostering diverse sectors of the regional economy.

Our region has successfully navigated the many challenges of the early 2020s, and we are leading the State of Michigan in many economic categories.

As you will see from the stories highlighted in this publication, the Grand Traverse area is poised for continued prosperity as we enter 2024.

Innovative solutions and a collective dedication to the region’s economic advancement have effectively addressed past challenges, and Traverse Connect remains a steadfast partner supporting our companies, partners, and communities to shape a brighter future for the region and its residents.

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