TRAVERSE CITY — Aristotle is credited with the well-known observation about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a concept that’s been applied for centuries across a wide range of sciences.
It also aptly describes the importance and effectiveness of membership organizations, including the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. It’s a message the chamber will underscore over the next several weeks as it launches its first membership recruitment effort in recent memory.
Why is this happening? There are several reasons. The Traverse City Area Chamber has a long and proud history going back almost 100 years as a major player in many of the community initiatives that made the Grand Traverse area the beautiful and inviting region it is today. In its earliest days some of the most-famous surnames in the history of Traverse City — Bryant, Stocking, Power, Milliken — worked through their chamber to attract industry and commerce to downtown Traverse City. Folks worked through the chamber to build the region’s tourism industry, to site the local airport and later the Coast Guard station, and to help create Northwestern Michigan College.
The momentum continued into recent history through the leadership of long-time Chamber President Hal Van Sumeren, who stays active in the chamber and the community today. The chamber staff has continued Van Sumeren’s tradition of quiet accomplishment, working behind the scenes and passing on credit where it belongs – to the job creators, risk takers, community leaders and volunteers who’ve shaped our region. But the chamber plays an important role as well. Its been a convener, facilitator and problem-solver that identifies issues, along with challenges and opportunities, and then brings together people and resources to find solutions. It’s an approach that’s served this community well over the past century, and a message that needs to be delivered as the chamber embarks upon its second hundred years.
The Great Recession is another underlying factor. Throughout the challenges, the chamber stood side by side with the local business community and also found ways to reduce operating costs, increase efficiencies and hunker down to work through the economic downturn.
Five years later, northern Michigan’s economy is picking up steam. Property values are rebounding, jobless rates are improving, businesses are expanding and new companies are popping up across the community. Again, the chamber and its members are playing a role. Its loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars to help open new businesses, finance energy efficiency projects, conduct training and education programs for business owners and their employees, engaged the region’s young professionals, and developed a new generation of leaders for our community’s institutions. Its also created a stronger local voice -- and in Lansing and Washington -- for the region’s business community with an impressive record of legislative achievement across a spectrum of issues from tourism funding to public school aid.
This important work doesn’t get done without the support and involvement of the region’s businesses in their Chamber of Commerce, where the sum of its parts continues to make a difference in northern Michigan.
Doug Luciani is President & CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him by email at email@example.com