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Traverse Connect Report Focuses on Housing, Childcare Needs

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Northern Michigan business leaders are working to tackle the problems facing employers.

Traverse Connect is one of the organizations that takes the lead in issues affecting business owners, and they’re discussing their . Some familiar problems are still posing challenges, but more solutions are also on the horizon. CEO Warren Call says they’re “talking a lot about childcare and housing. Obviously those are the big issues for our businesses, and really every organization and every individual in northern Michigan.”

The report from Traverse Connect has some familiar themes. Call says finding a talented work – and a place for them to live – are among the biggest challenges. “In general, the community feels that this is a good place to grow a business. However when you ask the follow up question about, ‘is this place getting better, is this region getting better to grow a business?’ The results there are not as favorable. Finding talented workforce, talented staff. And the related issues of housing for staff. So those are certainly our biggest challenges.”

Finding housing is not only a challenge for prospective employees and new hires, it’s also a challenge for some existing employees. Board Chair and Business Owner Russ Knopp says, “We have that in hiring, but we also have that happen on a daily basis. Where people are getting a notice from their landlord that it’s time to move out at the end of the month or they have to find a new place to live. And they have to find someplace in the region because this is where their job is.”

That means current employees are moving farther away from work and commuting. Knopp says, “Typically what’s happening is people are moving farther and farther out. People are living in Fife Lake, South Boardman, and commuting in. With gas prices it just kind of compounds the challenge.”

New construction is happening, but it can’t keep pace with demand. “We see housing projects happening. They are a drop in the bucket but having the right people at the table… I think we’ve got all the things going the right direction at the right time,” Knopp adds. Warren Call agrees. “I think in some parts of the region we are starting to make a dent. We’ve got a lot of construction here in Traverse City and Garfield Township and near downtown. So there’s a lot of things that will bring more housing inventory online soon. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Traverse Connect is also taking note of the new , where employees, employers, and the state split the cost of childcare three ways. It’s one solution to yet another concern. Knopp says, “When you think about innovation in your business, you think about new technology and things like that. Our innovation in the last year has been around childcare. And how do we keep our people employed.”

Traverse Connect is also working with Northwestern Michigan College to bridge the “skills gap” – revealing the needed skills and offering training and credentials for employees throughout the region. “I think we finally have the right people all paying attention at the right time. And we have coalitions coming together to make things happen,” Knopp adds.