Traverse City News and Events

A Very Ambitious Scorecard

By Ross Boissoneau | Oct. 11, 2020

You can’t say Dave Mengebier and the the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation (GTRCF) aren’t aiming high: The organization has identified what it believes are northern Michigan’s biggest issues, will collaborate with more than 20 other organizations in the region to tackle those issues -- and then measure the progress with an actual scorecard. 

That scorecard is part of an ambitious program created by the GTRCF called the Community Development Coalition, which includes utilities such as Traverse City Light and Power and Consumers Energy, non-profits such as FLOW and United Way, private businesses such as Hagerty and Rare Bird Brewpub, educational institutions like Northwestern Michigan College and Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District. In all, nearly 30 organizations have banded together to foster (and measure) progress on issues in three main areas: economic, societal and environmental.

Mengebier, CEO of the GTRCF, says the region faces numerous challenges, some of which have been around for years. He believes a coalition of partners could better address them than could any organization by itself. “We are blessed with some fantastic leaders, but decision-making is decentralized. That makes it harder to get things done,” he says.

“I come from a background of helping put together coalitions to advocate for public policy,” he adds. “That’s where the idea came from.”

So he reached out to leaders across the region and across numerous disciplines. Among them was the Watershed Center. Executive Director Christine Crissman saw the value of a strategic alliance among not only environmental groups, but businesses and governmental units. “I believe environmental organizations do a good job of collaborating, but struggle to collaborate outside,” says Crissman.

She says the scorecard will help to further what the Watershed is doing regarding environmental projects, and will also demonstrate to the public and other partners what is actually being accomplished. “Having another place to show progress is fabulous.”

John Taylor, chair of the Traverse City Light and Power board, was similarly inclined. He says working together from the outset means when organizations find that a collaborative effort is the best approach for a problem, “We won’t have to introduce ourselves for the first time.”

Involving the various groups and organizations presents another challenge: that of geography. The Traverse City DDA is focused on downtown Traverse City. Traverse Connect focuses on the five-county area. Networks Northwest is a ten-county public agency. Hagerty is based in Traverse City but its reach extends worldwide.

“Part of our mission is to have a unified strategy,” says Warren Call, CEO of the economic development and business organization Traverse Connect, which has been onboard with the coalition since the beginning. “To share with a broad coalition and have everybody on the same page (means) we can identify shared priorities.”

Not just sharing priorities, but results. Mengebier says the ability to show what progress is being made is a key consideration. “The scorecard is a really important tool,” he says. Like an actual scorecard, there are measurable goals with benchmarks along the way, and a three-tiered grading system: Better, No Change and Worse.

The scorecard currently has five objectives in the economic sector, four in societal and three in environmental. They include such things as increasing professional, IT, scientific and technical jobs; improving arts and culture resources and experiences; improving access to housing; and improving regional water quality resources.

The objectives also offer ten-year goals and one benchmark. For example, the goal of increasing professional jobs seeks a ten percent increase by 2030 and 1,000 new high-skill jobs by 2023.

Call says because of its visibility, the scorecard will be valuable to the community at large – and beyond. “I see it as a yardstick for us to challenge, but also a sales piece. One of my jobs is to attract entrepreneurs.”

That’s been particularly important during the pandemic, which saw many people’s jobs move online. Traverse Connect introduced a new endeavor to attract and inform those who might be considering leaving urban areas as they could work remotely, Creative Coast.

“This shows the region and community working together. That only helps me attract people,” Call says.

Mangebier says the Foundation was working to improve health and well-being even before he arrived,  but bringing in so many partners gives the endeavor greater depth and reach. “All the issues are interconnected – economic, societal, environmental. It’s the triple bottom line.

“Traditionally the community foundation would work with a donor, invest money, focus on endowments, and provide grants to students and non-profits. It’s increasingly playing a collaborative role. We think the foundation is particularly good as it’s seen as a neutral party.”

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