Traverse City Record-Eagle


January 19, 2014

More people equals more opportunities

TRAVERSE CITY — A detailed economic analysis of the northwest Michigan economy predicts strong growth over the next quarter-century, which should give entrepreneurs new chances for profits in health care, senior care, construction and the food service sectors.

But growth also will have a downside: roads and government services increasingly will be strained, and there are predictions of a significant shortage of skilled workers in the Grand Traverse region over the next 30 years.

A worker shortage could mean northern Michigan business leaders will have to pay more attention to worker recruitment and retention because skilled workers will be much harder to find as the economy expands.

“It is going to be much harder to get employment gains because there are not going to be the people to fill those jobs, and it’s being driven by the aging of the population,” said Don Grimes, a senior research associate at the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy at the University of Michigan, which performed the economic analysis on behalf of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The Institute’s analysis predicts the region’s population will grow by roughly 45,322 people, or 26 percent, by 2040. Each of the five counties in the Grand Traverse region — Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim and Kalkaska — will grow, with Grand Traverse County’s population predicted to expand by 30,431 people, or 34 percent, by 2040.

Grimes said the most noticeable numbers in population growth predictions for the Grand Traverse region are the projected increases in the area’s senior population. The number of individuals 65 or older in Grand Traverse County will more than double, jumping by 101 percent, by 2040. The region overall will see its senior population jump by 63 percent. A huge spike in seniors will offer business opportunities in the senior care sector, said Matt McCauley, director for regional planning & community development with the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments.

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