Opinion: Celebrate community wins this year; look ahead to opportunities in 2023 | Opinion


David Mengebier (copy) (copy)


This past November, millage proposals put forth by two of our Northwest Michigan Community Development Coalition Contributors passed. These included BATA’s bus service operations millage and Northwest Education Services’ special education millage.

Both millages have the potential to positively impact our shared Regional Scorecard objectives and are prime examples of how, when we support each other, wonderful things can happen for our communities.

Over the course of 2022, there have been many other important community wins. These have included:

  • The passage of a bipartisan housing bill package that will give local governments additional tools to finance attainable housing projects and make it easier for builders and developers to create affordable housing across Michigan. Community Development Coalition Contributors, Housing North and Goodwill Northern Michigan were instrumental in rallying local support for the bill package.
  • Grand Traverse County selecting recipients for nearly $18.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. Many of the selected projects are focused on early childhood care, housing and mental health, which could positively impact several shared Regional Scorecard objectives, from increasing access to housing to increasing school readiness.
  • The Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation securing a $100,000 Michigan Health Endowment Fund grant for a youth-led mental health research initiative aimed at helping improve youth mental health across the region.
  • BATA and the Traverse City Housing Commission securing funding for the Carriage Flats housing project, which will create much needed workforce housing and allow the BATA transfer station and headquarters to move forward, contributing to community mobility and housing access.
  • Approval of the 2023 state budget that will allow Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) and other community colleges across Michigan to partner with four-year universities to offer Bachelor of Science in nursing degrees locally, which has been a major priority for Community Development Coalition Contributors, NMC and Munson Healthcare.
  • The passage of a bipartisan childcare bill package, which included several bills sponsored by northern Michigan legislators. The bills will sustain existing childcare providers and make it easier for others to start childcare businesses.

While the Community Development Coalition cannot take sole credit for all of these wins, we are focused on advocating for a variety of solutions to community needs. By using our collective voice, we hope to increase the probability of success for economic, societal and environmental initiatives in the works and already underway.

The Coalition — now comprised of 38 nonprofit, governmental and business organizations working together for transformational change and sustainable growth across Northwest Lower Michigan — is poised to support several opportunities in 2023 that could move the needle on critical community issues. These opportunities include:

  • Northwestern Michigan College, Discovery Center & Pier, Traverse Connect, 20Fathoms and Michigan Tech partnering to develop a new Freshwater Research and Innovation Center on West Grand Traverse Bay.
  • Bringing additional federal and state funding to our region made available from ARPA, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act.
  • Supporting the creation of a Traverse City-based regional mental health wellness center and increasing funding for youth and adult mental health services.
  • Securing financial support for an emerging partnership between the region’s public, parochial and private schools and state housing and rural development agencies to build housing for teachers and other school personnel.

Before 2022 comes to a close, let’s be sure to celebrate the community wins that happened throughout the year. And, as we turn the corner to 2023, let’s also keep up all the great work we’re doing together to support the people and places we love across the region.

About the author: David Mengebier is the president and CEO of the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation.

The Community Foundation supports Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau counties, awarding grants and scholarships and participating in leadership on community issues. The Community Foundation convenes the Northwest Michigan Community Development Coalition. For more information about the foundation, visit www.gtrcf.org or call 231-935-4066.

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