Traverse Connect Releases 2020 Annual Report with 2021 Priorities
We’re fast-approaching the one year anniversary of Michigan’s first COVID case, and the past 11 months have taken a toll on individuals, families, and businesses.
Traverse Connect just released their annual report, and 9&10 talked with them about what they’ve accomplished and what they’re setting out to do in the future.
Warren Call is the Traverse Connect President and CEO. He points out that the organization started 2020 with a new look – merging with the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce on January 1. “2020 started out with a very focused strategic plan for Traverse Connect. We got new investors, a new board of directors. A new structure for our organization, a new staff.”
“Everyone was really organized and ready to go, and then everything changed.” COVID hit in early March, and it didn’t take long to realize businesses would be impacted. “We knew we had to keep a focus on those strategic priorities. Because it’s essential that we not only have recovery efforts, but we continue to build on our strategic priorities going forward. In 2020, 2021 and beyond.”
Call says highlights from the past year include driving business expansion, and also awareness efforts: with leadership roundtables, new awards programs, and economic strategy sessions. “What I’m happy to report is that nothing did fall by the wayside. Obviously a lot of things had to be ramped up and taken into overdrive.”
Even with growth, he says keeping an eye on existing businesses is important. “In order to grow the economy long-term we’ve got to protect our small businesses that are struggling in the pandemic.” Call adds, “Obviously more businesses need help when times are tough than what they were in late ’19 and early ’20.”
Traverse Connect says in the past eleven months of the pandemic, advocacy is more important than ever: working closely with government officials at the state, local, and federal levels. Kirstie Sieloff is the Traverse Connect Director of Government Relations and also serves in the role for the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance. “Advocacy is one of the most important jobs we can do for our businesses. We saw that through COVID. Giving our region a voice and a seat at the table both in Lansing but also at the federal level. I think over the last year, despite COVID, we have brought great focus to advocacy with Traverse Connect and the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance.”
“We are focusing on: Support. Develop. Compete. Supporting the success of existing northern Michigan businesses. Develop and attract a talented workforce in northern Michigan. And maximize the competitiveness of our rural northern Michigan businesses.” Sieloff adds, “Over the course of COVID we had interaction with every level of government. State departments, regional and statewide organizations. And worked to craft relationships with those organizations. And work with them and partner with them on issues. So we’re going to continue that relationship building over the next year. It has helped us get our message out. It’s helped us represent our businesses at the state and federal level.”
Call agrees that advocacy is extremely important. “Our top priority overall is to lead regional strategy and advocacy. I think that our government advocacy work for 2020 really cemented our position as a leader, a servant leader organization in the community.”
He says, “People are paying closer attention to policy and politicians and government actions at every level. So our advocacy work is even higher profile than I think it had been in the past.”
Recruiting new talent to the region was also a focus of the past year – the new Creative Coast initiative drew interest from 43 states and 5 countries. Call says, “So many more people were considering, ‘where do I live, where should I move? My work is now remote.’ And that actually – we were able to capitalize on that in a large way and it was certainly a silver lining in the pandemic.”
He adds, “Our timing was so fortuitous to have built all those things as a community. To have all this momentum going at a time when all of the sudden everything changed. And everyone realized that they could work from anywhere.”
Sieloff also points to the annual report and the outlook for the new year, saying investor partners were closely involved in framing the organizational goals. “Our investors provided input on their policy priorities for 2021. So we’re very proud to be an investor-led organization. To make sure we are bringing attention to the most critical issues for our region and for our businesses.”
You can view the Annual Report here.