I have a lot of ways to describe this time of the year in the Grand Traverse region: anticipation, excitement, enjoyment, diversity, recreation, entertainment and fun among others.
Others might use different words like traffic, crowds or hassle (me too, sometimes). But that negativity serves no purpose and, frankly, just makes things worse. Summer tourism and signature events like the National Cherry Festival are cornerstones that became building blocks for the region’s growing economy.
All of us that live here should celebrate the region’s amazing evolution into the Midwest’s hot spot – and literally roll out the red carpet for our visitors, seasonal residents, prospective businesses and others who spend their precious time and resources to be in a place that we get to enjoy all the time.
Tourism holds a special place in the Traverse City Area Chamber’s heart. From its earliest days, members of this 101-year-old Chamber have promotes the Traverse City area across the state and beyond as what they initially termed, “a vacation Mecca.” Even in the midst of the horrors of WWI, they could see the tremendous potential of the region, and acted on the vision to make it happen.
Recognizing the potential of the region’s cherry industry to be more than just a cash crop, Chamber leaders organized the first iterations of what is now the National Cherry Festival. Even in its modest early years, it was among the top festivals in Michigan and drew visitors from across the state.
The success of these efforts would eventually outgrow the Chamber’s manpower. The Cherry Festival became its own entity that operates on a national stage, promoted in backdrops like the Today Show and Good Morning America. Tourism and hospitality are thriving under the direction of TC Tourism, recently voted the best visitor and convention bureau in Michigan by its trade association peers.
The success of the National Cherry Festival and TC Tourism allowed the Chamber to focus on the regional economy in other sectors like manufacturing, health care and the service industry. The Chamber fights every day for businesses in our region, across multiple fronts and sectors. But it never waivers from its commitment to “Build Community.” People make the place.
It’s working. Our region is popular to the point of bursting. Young families are moving in – or in some cases coming back home. Technology advances are enabling business executives to direct or even move their operations here. Other major attractions like the Traverse City Film Festival and National Writers Series have taken root, further cementing our region’s reputation as both a natural and cultural destination.
The challenge – and the opportunity – is to keep building on this incredible momentum, and not be crushed by it. That’s a place where we can all help by continuing another tradition in our region, which is to be welcoming to our visitors and seasonal neighbors.
Long-time residents will remember the “I (Heart) TC” pins, or the “Ask Me I Live Here” badges as the community put its best foot forward to welcome visitors to our home. It’s time to re-double those efforts to make our town as warm and friendly as it can be.
If you encounter someone that looks lost or confused, offer to help with directions or local knowledge. Pick up stray trash and put it in one of the many trash cans now conveniently located around town. Let someone out of a street or driveway, and be extra cautious around pedestrians and bikers.
Who knows? That person you help might be the CEO of a company looking to move here, who might someday have a job for your children, grandchildren – or yourself. That happens frequently and is our number one recruiting tool for business relocation.
Ours is an exciting, thriving, growing, year-round region that’s no longer just a place to go – it’s the place to be. For more than a century the Chamber’s vision has been to build on that lure to create a diverse and dynamic economy that thrives summer and winter, rain or shine.
Now that we’re getting there, take some time to enjoy the excitement, entertainment, recreation, diversity and other things our region has to offer – and please be sure to help others enjoy them as well.