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Economic Development

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Growth Model

The Traverse City Region – the Midwest’s Hotspot for Innovation & Growth

At Traverse Connect, our approach to economic development is forward-thinking and non-traditional. Instead of focusing all our resources on “chasing smokestacks,” we value a healthy mix of attracting new business to the region while supporting the growth of our existing companies and encouraging the creation of new industries from the ground up.

Building a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem means fostering a culture of openness and information exchange between companies and across industries within our region, from corporate headquarters and startup entrepreneurs, down to Main Street coffee shop founders. Our goal is to ignite a community of entrepreneurs and local partners who feed off each other’s talent, creativity, and support at each stage of growth. By focusing on local business conditions, we hope to create clusters of new firms and industries that ultimately produce a fertile landscape long term.

By encouraging the growth of our existing assets – healthy partner relationships, the scaling up of our existing companies – and attracting new business, we will see our already vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem continue to flourish and grow.

Measuring Success with the Scale Up Growth Barometer

Measuring Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building can be difficult and complex, but there are key performance indicators to highlight progress. We have adopted the use of a local Scale Up Growth Barometer measurement, adapted from the Babson College Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Platform, which asks two important questions of our local business community:

Updated 9.27.23

Warren Call

President & CEO

Camille Hoisington

Director of Ecosystem Development

Economic Ecosystem Components

Electric Waterways & Freshwater Innovation

The Grand Traverse region, surrounded by Lake Michigan and its well-trafficked waterways, alongside our inland freshwater assets and natural resources make us well positioned to catalyze the innovation and commercialization around freshwater technologies and e-mobility. This accessibility and proximity of lakeshore provides a unique opportunity for companies that develop technology and build components for the electric future of boating. Meanwhile, the presence of Michigan Technological University’s research hub in Traverse City – offering expertise in engineering, electrification, and mobility applications – coupled with the presence of Northwestern Michigan College’s Great Lakes Water Studies Institute, positions us to advance the blue economy in northern Michigan and place Traverse City on the map as a destination for freshwater innovation.

Manufacturers Resources

The Grand Traverse region’s diverse economy is home to world leaders in manufacturing, technology, and agriculture, and these industries continue to evolve and grow. Food and beverage products produced right here in our beautiful corner of the world are for sale across the country, and our technology and advanced manufacturing companies compete in the global economy.

We know that a strong manufacturing community benefits the whole economy of northern Michigan. Manufacturing makes up almost 17% of employment in Grand Traverse County alone, with jobs in the sector paying salaries 40 percent higher than the average regional wage. The industry has a huge multiplier effect. Every one job in manufacturing generates another five good-paying jobs. Visit our Manufacturers Resources page to help you grow and scale your business.

Tech and Startup Community

Traverse City’s natural beauty and quality of life have made it a multi-season destination for years. The area’s entrepreneurship support network and access to capital have made it a hotspot for innovation and growth. This is why we call the region Michigan’s Creative Coast. Learn more about the companies, nonprofits, and individuals that have helped make Traverse City especially attractive for talent working in technology and entrepreneurship.

Talent Attraction Resources

Let us help you find and secure the best talent by sending new and prospective hires our way for full-service relocation assistance.

The Michigan’s Creative Coast Job Board is designed to help our valued local companies recruit new talent, and is intended to be a high-quality, curated showcase of local employers and family-sustaining job opportunities available in the Grand Traverse region.

As an employer we know that you are concerned with attracting the best talent to work for your company. Our Michigan’s Creative Coast initiative is designed to be a one-stop relocation resource for everything a new hire needs to know to live, work and get connected in the Grand Traverse region. We have put together boilerplate language and graphics about Michigan’s Creative Coast that employers can easily add to their career pages or job postings. The goal is to help new, and prospective, talent find out more about what it’s like to live, work and explore in the Traverse City area.

Business Relocation to the Grand Traverse Region

The Grand Traverse region is the economic hub of Northern Michigan. Its diverse local economy has seen many transitions over time, originating in the 1850s with the start of the Sawmill at the mouth of the Boardman River.

In the 1950s John Parson and Frank Stulen patented the first CNC -or Computerized Numerical Control- technology in Traverse City beginning the “Second Industrial Revolution” for this area. This became the industry standard for which they received the National Medal of Technology & Innovation, the nation’s highest award for technological advancement. Presently, Traverse City’s diverse economy now is home to world leaders in manufacturing, technology, and agriculture, all rooted in one of the most naturally beautiful towns in America and we seek to expand our technological innovation footprint.

Business Expansion Support

Leverage the ample amount of business and community resources to start and grow your business. We’ve identified and organized them by specialty for you to leverage, regardless of what phase your business is in.

Commercial and Recreational Air Travel

Cherry Capital Airport – TVC located in Traverse City, Michigan has operated passenger air service in the Northern Michigan Region since 1938 with Penn Central Airlines. Today, TVC is served by four great carriers: American, Delta, and United, and now Allegiant. TVC has truly become northern Michigan’s connection to the world. Visit TVCairport.com for up-to-the-minute flight information and news.

Air Mobility Corridor & Unmanned Drone Research

The Grand Traverse region will be one of three use case studies in Michigan intended to provide transferable and repeatable knowledge in establishing safe drone skyways. Traverse City and Grand Traverse Bay, with our mixed land use of forested areas, agricultural land, residential and commercial, coupled with our proximity to Lake Michigan and open water, make the region well positioned to offer a testbed in which to analyze and establish the viable operation of drone skyways

Read the Article: Traverse City Is A Study Site Of Potential Drone Corridors In Michigan ~ The Ticker, October 7, 2022

Traverse City: Strength and Success in Business

Watch two of Traverse City's global business leaders discuss “Why Traverse City” and where they believe we’re headed next. Casey Cowell co-founded U.S. Robotics, Inc. at the age of 23. He served as Chairman and CEO throughout the company’s history culminating in its merger into 3COM Corporation in 1997. McKeel Hagerty is the CEO of Hagerty Insurance and the most recent Board Chairman of the Young President’s Organization.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Partners

Boomerang Catapult invests in the creation of an ever more intellectually and culturally vibrant community of engaged citizens creating high economic value, the engine of sustainable community prosperity and growth.

We seek to invest in enterprises based in Traverse City that create an increase in value from raw material input to final “product”.

In the case of analytics, concepts, and other purely intellectual products, the raw material is simply creative thinking. When we deliver our products, whether physical or intellectual, the value paid to us in dollars over the cost of the raw materials is the economic benefit that flows to our community.

The City of Traverse City has approximately 15,000 residents, but serves regionally as the economic hub. Surrounded by a natural landscape that has been touted as “The Most Beautiful Place in America,” there is a reason why Traverse City and the surrounding region is enjoyed by visitors and residents. The City is nestled at the base of Old Mission Peninsula and flanked by both East and West Grand Traverse Bays. The Boardman River meanders throughout the City and downtown, where over 200 locally owned businesses reside, more than 50 restaurants, and one of the largest Farmer’s Markets in the state.

The Grand Traverse Area Manufacturing Council was established to promote long-term thinking, education, and collaboration through people and companies that allow us to make great things in northern Michigan. It’s our mission to support a sustainable and globally competitive manufacturing sector for a stronger economy.

Grand Traverse County is a growing tech, manufacturing, health care, and financial hub offering a rich and diverse experience. The unsurpassed access to Lake Michigan and many outdoor recreational opportunities, and the many area restaurants and wineries make the county an attractive choice for remote workers. Grand Traverse County is worth exploring for those who are looking for a Michigan community to call home.

The Grand Traverse Economic Development Corporation is an 11-member board appointed by the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners. As the majority of the board operate primarily in the private sector, they are the voice of economic issues within the region, and actively promote strategic initiatives to move the County forward on business development.

Wholly-owned by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, GTED is the commercial investment entity that provides a consistent, supportive, and structured management platform in order to best support our subsidiary companies.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, in collaboration with more than 100 economic development partners, markets Michigan as the place to do business, assists businesses in their growth strategies, and fosters the growth of vibrant communities across the state.

In January 2022, Governor Gretchen Whitmer established the Office of Rural Development within MDARD via Executive Directive 2022-01 to focus on the strategic needs of rural Michigan, including economic and workforce development, infrastructure, public health, and environmental sustainability.

ALLIANCE PLAYS CENTRAL ROLE IN FUNDING OFFICE OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT

The Michigan SBDC enhances Michigan’s economic wellbeing by providing consulting, training and market research for new ventures, existing small businesses and advanced technology companies.

With ten offices across the state, we provide entrepreneurs and business owners with convenient access to free consulting and training throughout Michigan.

The Michigan SBDC is committed to fostering and sustaining a culture of inclusion through equitable outreach and service to Michigan’s diverse business community.

In October 2021, Michigan Technological University launched a research workspace in the Traverse Connect building in downtown Traverse City. The Traverse City workspace is advancing research in areas such as aerospace communications, manufacturing simulations and renewable energy. The location also allows MTU staff and students to work within the community through nonprofits and educational programs.

In 2022, Michigan Tech announced that its Michigan Tech’s Master of Business Administration program (TechMBA®) will be offered to Grand Traverse area professionals. The program will be offered in a hybrid format with both in-person and remote elements. Students will meet with faculty and other students in MTU’s Grand Traverse Research Workspace to attend virtual courses one night per week.

Networks Northwest delivers programs and services for the 10 counties of Northwest Michigan. Our primary service categories are: workforce development; business & economic development; and community development. Networks Northwest is the convening agency for the Regional Prosperity Initiative in these ten counties.

Thrive North

Northwest Michigan offers robust opportunities across a diversity of industries, with over 122,000 jobs ranging from healthcare to advanced manufacturing to hospitality management and tourism — and everything in between. Our region is situated in close proximity to the Detroit, Chicago, and Grand Rapids markets, and just a few hours drive to the state capitol in Lansing. Within minutes to Interstate 75, two commercial airports, and easy access to several state highways, Northwest Michigan is connected to everywhere you need to be.

The Thrive North website is a resource provided by Networks Northwest and its partner economic development organizations in Northwest Michigan.

Northern Michigan Angels is a group of investors who focus on scalable entrepreneurial companies whose potential success will have an economic and quality of life impact in Michigan, especially in northwestern Lower Michigan. Members pay a nominal annual fee, gain access to information about startup companies and provide investment capital. Members are Accredited Investors as defined by the SEC with the opportunity to collaborate with other members about each investment prospect. Each member makes their own investment decision and has the opportunity to engage with and advise companies of interest. NMA is not a fund and does not provide investment advice. We welcome the participation of like-minded individuals and organizations in this pursuit.

Northern Michigan Angels was founded January 2012 and is a 501 (c) 6 non-profit. NMA is a member of the Angel Capital Association (ACA).

Northwestern Michigan College is a publicly funded community college that serves people, organizations and businesses. We serve more than 50,000 learners annually throughout the Grand Traverse region and beyond. View more facts and stats here.

NMC offers associate degrees and professional certificates, and bachelor’s degrees through the Great Lakes Maritime Academy and Great Lakes Water Studies Institute, including Michigan’s first community college bachelor’s degree. Partner universities grant baccalaureate, graduate and doctoral degrees through our University Center.

NMC’s extensive Extended Education program offers a wide array of personal and professional classes and certifications to more than 10,000 learners a year.

NMC IS ALSO HOME TO:

TCNewTech is a community of tech enthusiasts, businesses, entrepreneurs, and Michigan policymakers building a culture of innovation, economic growth, and opportunity for local talent in the Traverse City Region.

Serving as the caretakers of Downtown Traverse City, the DDA works with businesses, property owners, and residents to maintain a vibrant city center that is economically healthy.

20Fathoms is a membership organization for the region’s entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, tech professionals, creatives, and other innovators. Led by a team of experts who have walked-the-walk, we provide services, resources, support, and a robust network to help our members accelerate both their careers and businesses. Most importantly, ours is a supportive community with an eye for cultivating innovation and ideas, and fostering business growth.

Venture North provides small business loans and resources in Northwest lower Michigan for economic and community development. As a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund, we make capital accessible to entrepreneurs who might not have other avenues to start or grow their business.

Venture North serves low-income and rural communities across Emmet, Charlevoix, Antrim, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Manistee, Wexford, and Missaukee counties in Northern Michigan.

Our team of experts bring decades of experience in small business success, banking, finance, data analysis, and community development. A call to Venture North means an agile response to new opportunities and a belief in the power of entrepreneurs.