Traverse City News and Events

Predicting What's Next And Why Traverse City Could Thrive: Leaders Speak

By Luke Haase | May 12, 2020

What does the “new” future hold for businesses, tourism, donations, and healthcare in and around Traverse City? We asked the experts what they’re predicting, what keeps them up at night, and why northern Michigan might be a bright spot going forward.

Downtown Traverse City: Jean Derenzy, Traverse City DDA CEO
Downtown a year from now:
The programs and actions we are doing right now, and our ability to adapt, will help determine the future success of Traverse City for the foreseeable future. In the short term, we’ll have to learn how to do more, with less. Now, more than ever, we need to adapt to the new situation(s) that arise. If we keep the attributes that made Traverse City unique and a great place to live work and play, we will can be stronger and resilient.

Scares me most:
The availability of resources to quickly respond and adapt to constantly changing conditions.   

Why our area might be more resilient than most:
Our ability to work together. Our community has a long history of working together to achieve great things. It's part of our identity and fundamental to our future. More specifically, over the last several years, we have worked together to position ourselves to compete in the knowledge economy. Our investments in infrastructure like fiber, business incubators, and pedestrian amenities make us able to compete in the global economy.

Healthcare: Dr. Christine Nefcy, Munson Healthcare Chief Medical Officer
Healthcare a year from now:
I think there will be continued focus on personal protective equipment (PPE) and distancing. As a result, more and more medical visits will be done virtually.

Scares me most:
A second surge.

Why our area might be more resilient:
Smaller communities mean people know each other a bit more and it fosters much better communication, which is really important during a crisis. Secondly, our geographic spread and decreased density has helped keep the curve flatter, giving us time to prepare and manage issues.

Giving: Dave Mengebier, GT Regional Community Foundation CEO
Giving a year from now:
Our hope is that our regional community of nonprofits, businesses, and governments will work more collaboratively and interdependently, not only to collectively recover from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, but to address some of the long-standing environmental, economic, and societal challenges and opportunities facing our region. If there is a silver lining to this devastating pandemic, it is that we have come to appreciate even more our region’s natural environment, the vital importance of social engagement and communication, and the need to work across sectors to share innovative ideas and resources.

Scares me most:
Spending cuts to important economic and environmental programs.

Why our area might be more resilient:
I moved to Traverse City four years ago, and two things continue to stand out - our amazing natural environment and a wealth of incredible talent. The first is an enduring asset that will continue to attract visitors and residents to our region. The other is a source of remarkable leadership, innovation, and strength.

Tourism: Trevor Tkach, Traverse City Tourism CEO
Tourism a year from now:
With new regulation and expectations regarding social distancing and sanitation, the highly immersive Traverse City will have to find new ways to deliver experiences. There will be more reservation systems, more concierge services, and more planned itineraries. Businesses will have to collaborate more to offer a guaranteed Traverse City experience.

Scares me most:
Consumer confidence.

Why our area might be more resilient:
Traverse City is an established, well-respected destination. We have the sophistication of an urban area coupled with the rural, wide-open-space that people will be longing for post-pandemic.

Residential real estate: Dennis Pearsall, Real Estate One NW Mich President
Residential real estate a year from now:
Over the last two months, it's clear that our industry has made major and likely lasting adjustments in the way we interact and conduct real estate business. The ability to creatively make adjustments, e.g. virtual listings, virtual and Zoom showings, virtual sales, virtual closings, Zoom meetings, etc., aided by technology already in place, has accelerated how the industry was going to change over time. People, municipalities, and investors have learned and accepted much of this new way of doing the real estate transaction. Although the relationship will always be the premier factor in almost all real estate transactions, the aforementioned dynamics will afford buyers and sellers the ability to make it more streamlined and convenient at the same time.

Scares me most:
Getting jobs back/unemployment! And a second would be a second COVID shutdown!

Why our area might be more resilient:
Several characteristics in this crisis parallel the sub-prime crisis of 2008-2014. The dynamics of our local real estate activity now, as then, clearly show our area doing much better in all categories, e.g. new listings, pending sales, closed sales, and even (virtual) showings, compared to any other areas in the state! We are driven and supported by a unique stability, amazing dynamic resources, and an overall appeal of our environment. As businesses adjust and employees do more work remotely, migration to less populated areas like NW Michigan will happen, so I believe the future of area real estate is going to be exceptional, notwithstanding the current challenge!

Commercial Real Estate: Kevin Endres, Three West Real Estate owner
Commercial real estate a year from now:
Companies within our industry will need to embrace technology across all aspects, from marketing to communications. The biggest change will be showings of property and in-person meetings, which includes limiting the number of people on a showing, sanitizing after all showings, etc. The good news is our industry was heavy into technology prior and should become stronger through it.

Scares me most:
Businesses going out of business.

Why our area might be more resilient:
The Grand Traverse region has shown its resilience through many of the past economic hard times, and this one will be no different. Because it is a great place to live and raise a family, people choose to live here and so they will fight, adjust, and adopt whatever they need to, to continue to remain here. We are a community that supports the community, neighbor taking care of neighbor.

Air Travel: Tom Rockne, Tom Rockne Travel Resources Principal
Air travel a year from now:
It's going to take the air carriers serving TVC Cherry Capital 18-24 months or more to build schedules back toward the planned summer 2020 levels from the current limited service. We will all have to adhere to additional personal health security measures going forward. No carriers will abandon TVC Cherry Capital Airport.

Scares me most:
Air travel requires 'air travel'...Nothing scary about that - just factual. A modest segment of the traveling public will look to minimize air travel for some time.

Why our area might be more resilient:
Northwestern Michigan has multiple proven unique, active, and outdoor offerings that remain highly desirable and available. Each element of our local tourism infrastructure is able, connected, and focused. They will quickly adapt and share best practices.

Restaurants: Greg Lobdell and Jon Carlson, Blue Tractor/North Peak/Mission Table/Jolly Pumpkin owners
Restaurants a year from now:
We are hopeful and working very hard to assure we will have a vibrant restaurant industry in one year. We are anticipating a larger focus on outdoor space as well as more spacing between tables indoors. We’re retrofitting our locations to limit all points of contact with surfaces. Our industry has always had incredible cleaning and sanitizing standards, and everyone has just dramatically expanded and increased all standards as we move forward carefully and thoughtfully.

Scares us most:
Quite frankly, the thing that scares us most is the idea of living in a world with less human contact. Human contact is so important to our existence. Sitting across from someone and sharing a smile and a laugh. Giving your mother and father a hug. Having a cheers with your good friends as part of a celebration. We can’t imagine living a long-term existence where that is limited.

Why our area might be more resilient:
Our region has advantages over others. We have large open spaces and less density of population than many other areas. We have an incredible hospitality culture. The dedicated and passionate hospitality professionals of northern Michigan are second to none. Everyone we’ve spoken to in our industry is committed to coming back stronger and safer than ever.

Manufacturing: Matt Bulloch, TentCraft president
Manufacturing a year from now:
Absent a vaccine or effective treatment, I think a lot of the new employee screening, disinfecting, and social distancing routines are going to be more permanent. Core Lean Manufacturing teaching typically ends up with people as close as possible to minimize the "wastes" of transportation and excess motion. Some of this is going to have to be reevaluated in a manufacturing environment to balance productivity and safety.

Scares me most:
Despite how exposed we all our with cost-cutting and just-in-time inventory management of critical supplies, customers down the line may not tolerate higher costs that must be passed on if businesses are expected to carry more inventory. There appears to be a lot of made-in-the-USA sentiment right now, but that doesn't always hold when people are presented with a US-made option that is more expensive.

Why our area might be more resilient:
Northern Michigan has smart, resilient people. I grew up in very moderate Maryland and much of my family is in California right now. People in northern Michigan are gritty and tough. You have to be to not just survive, but thrive, during winter! I also think it is a benefit in a situation like this (that) most of our region benefits from much lower population density than the big cities that have been the hardest hit. There is also a strong streak of do-it-yourself-ism and mechanical knowledge that I didn't see living on either coast.

Events and meetings: Allison Beers, Events North owner
Events a year from now:
I know that meeting in person and having face-to-face interactions enhances relationships and creates more authentic bonds. I firmly believe the industry will come back, and because of our industry’s resiliency we’ll change with new regulations and guidelines to make face-to-face interactions happen. We've all been on enough virtual meetings now at this point to know that by the third one of the day, it's very hard to stay focused and is not a true substitute for face-to-face meetings.  

Scares me most:
The thing that scares me the most is not knowing. Not knowing what my clients will legally be allowed to do in one month, three months, and beyond worries me.

Why our area might be more resilient:
Traverse City is a beacon for meetings around the state. When our out-of-town clients announce that they are hosting a meeting in Traverse City (versus another city), attendance grows by 1/4 or more. I also firmly believe that after many virtual meetings, attendees will be so excited to meet in person again.

Pictured (counterclockwise from top left): Nefcy, Derenzy, Mengebier, Pearsall

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