How many things in life go exactly as planned on the first try? Not many. It’s why phrases like “trial and error” and “don’t give up” are familiar themes in most people’s personal and professional experiences.
Successful endeavors are often built on a foundation of failed circumstances. There’s an endless list of life situations where success is achieved only after the lessons learned through failure – businesses, careers, inventions, medical discoveries, even personal relationships. Enduring success is rarely achieved without the benefit of knowledge and experience created by missteps along the way.
Our region is experiencing tremendous success on several fronts. But there are many examples where our achievements are a result of the efforts of those whose dreams didn’t always work out. One is the late orthodontist Dr. Arnold Sarya, a former Chamber Distinguished Service Award recipient. Dr. Sarya, a hockey enthusiast and one of the early supporters of youth hockey in the region, used his personal assets to build the original Glacier Dome indoor ice arena back in the 1970s on Barlow Street in Traverse City. He helped bring a professional minor league hockey team to Traverse City – the Traverse City Bays – and “the Dome” hosted high-profile music acts that put Traverse City on the entertainment map.
The operation didn’t last, and Dr. Sarya paid a steep price. But his efforts planted the seeds for Traverse City to become “Hockeytown North” – with a thriving hockey presence enjoyed today by thousands of participants young and old, and hosts National Hockey League organizations from across the country. Another happy ending is in the old Glacier Dome itself – now a thriving regional food hub and incubator for the area’s growing local and fresh food industry.
The State Theatre in downtown Traverse City is a shining star of community success. But it likely would have encountered the same fate as scores of abandoned downtown theaters across the country without the efforts back in the 1990s of people like Barry Cole, the State Theatre Group, Interlochen Center for the Arts and ultimately Rotary Charities. Their plans didn’t work out, but without their efforts and resources to keep their dream alive, the State Theatre and highly successful Traverse City Film Festival would not exist as we know them today.
There are other examples. Developers of the River’s Edge project at an abandoned iron smelting plant in Old Town declared bankruptcy before the site eventually became home to the sterling headquarters of Hagerty, one of Northern Michigan’s best-known operations and largest employers. The Village at Grand Traverse Commons at the old state hospital grounds was literally brought back from the brink of demolition by Ray Minervini and his amazing development team to become one of the most unique historic renovation projects in the country. But it only happened after extensive time and effort – and hundreds of thousands of private and public dollars – were spent on various but ultimately unsuccessful proposals to save the aging structures.
All these risk-takers had one thing in common: while their reality may have fallen short of their dreams, their vision created a foundation and path to achieve great things that we all enjoy today. Our community does a wonderful job recognizing its leaders, volunteers, local officials and others for the work they do to create one of the great destinations in Michigan and the Midwest. But let us not forget or diminish our appreciation and support of the risk-takers who put the fortunes of themselves and often their families on the line to think big, build things, employ people and generate tangible economic results for the area. The impact of their efforts shows all around us and still endures – even for those (and maybe especially because of those) whose ideas didn’t always unfold as planned.