Its unlikely that anyone has avoided some degree of hardship. However, as a region we are blessed with countless benefits that are the envy of most both nationally and within our state. Grand Traverse is one of only two Michigan counties (per the U.S. Census) that have had significant net population growth since 2000, with 25-34-year-olds (according to the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments) leading those gains.
While auto-related jobs disappear, our region is blessed with employment diversity in new technology, services, agriculture and tourism. Munson, a world class medical center, cares for our ailing and provides good paying jobs. Our array of primary schools continues to provide quality education and Northwestern Michigan College provides advanced education at a reasonable cost. Cherry Capital Airport is the fifth largest airport in the state, allowing residents and visitors greater travel opportunities. It is the only airport in Michigan expected to have flights added in 2009.
The Grand Vision, a planning model of national significance, has provided area residents with a strong voice in crafting their future community. The National Cherry Festival appears to have turned the corner on finances and provides our cherry growers the opportunity to showcase their products. Other successful festivals include the Film Festival, Epicurean Classic and National Equestrian Show, which all provide additional business revenue to the community, create jobs and entertain residents and visitors alike.
Recreationally and environmentally, the Grand Traverse Bay and the Boardman River are fresh water gems destined to grow our tourism base and provide recreation for generations to come. TART and VASA trails provide biking, hiking and skiing enthusiasts local access to recreation without cost.
Residential and commercial construction has substantially declined in the area; however, residential real estate sales (per the GTA Realtors Association) have outpaced the rest of the state and are consistent with projections. Those who purchased homes at the housing peak with little or no down payment likely have negative equities, and with declining incomes have faced foreclosures. Current and future home buyers with good credit however, have more buying opportunities and 40-year low interest rates continue to make housing more affordable.
Individuals with excess and/or poor credit are facing less purchasing power while the savers in society are being rewarded with purchasing additional assets at discount prices. Even gas prices once the scourge of all, are falling.
Rather than joining the doom and doom crowd, take a few moments to reflect on what you have. Join those who see opportunities and work to grow the Grand Traverse Area for the mutual benefit of all.
Michael Estes is mayor of Traverse City.