The vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem is complemented by a supportive community.
Allen Kent Photography
Entrepreneurship has always been prominent in Traverse City, MI. As the economic center of Northwest Michigan, Traverse City offers potential business owners several advantages, from a skilled talent pool and buildable real estate to an airport that serves more than 17 direct flights across the United States
The growing technology sector benefits from an entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports start-ups with various resources, from monthly pitch competitions and co-working spaces to incubators and access to investors.
Traverse City has a strong history of entrepreneurship. A tourism-based economy has evolved towards the technology sector over the past decade.
“The city continues to grow,” said Christopher Nesbit, events director at TCNewTech, a community of tech enthusiasts, businesses, entrepreneurs and policymakers in Traverse City. “Some of this growth is due to tourism and the additional growth is due to trade. The city has decided to support this pivot.”
“We have a thriving high street scene, great restaurants, retail and more,” says Keri Amlotte, director of marketing at 20Fathoms. “Technology has helped us grow and create family-sustaining jobs in Traverse City.”
20Fathoms, a startup incubator and co-working space in Traverse City, works with entrepreneurs and technology professionals to grow their businesses through educational programs and networking. Other organizations such as TCNewTech, which hosts networking events and a monthly pitch competition for startups, play an essential role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Traverse City has plenty of resources for startups, from spacious co-working spaces to networking opportunities and access to a collaborative community.
“There is a lot of cooperative energy. People work together to achieve the greater goal. Great organizations are working to encourage this environment to make it more conducive to entrepreneurs,” says Nesbit.
A high quality of life makes starting here even more attractive. Traverse City is cheaper than cities on the East or West Coast. According to Zillow, the median home value in Traverse City as of August 2022 was $425,000, compared to $676,000 in Austin, $746,000 in Boston, $1.4 million in San Jose, and $1.6 million Dollars in San Francisco.
“We have a strong work-life balance, outdoor recreation — hiking, biking, skiing, and stand-up paddleboarding, to name a few — and it’s small-town and family-friendly,” says Amlotte. “People move here to work hard and play hard.”
Local entrepreneurs agree.
“It’s all about the lifestyle that Traverse City offers,” says Chase Bonhag, CEO and co-founder of FirstIgnite, a Traverse City company that helps universities connect with companies interested in licensing technology, sponsor research and use core facilities, among other things. “Our business is fast-moving and depends on a screen. But I’m about a block away from something fun to do outside. Everything here makes running the business in Traverse City a lot more enjoyable.”
“You can’t get green, blue water like Traverse City in most places — unless you’re in the Caribbean. We have beautiful trees and all four seasons,” says Nesbit. “It’s a healthy community. People want to stay or come here because they are trying to get that better lifestyle. This way of thinking is catching on and you are working this culture into your company – it makes for a healthy working environment.”
Community support continues to make Traverse City a top contender for owning and operating a business.
“I’ve lived in many other cities where I’ve never seen so much support before,” says Bonhag. “Local investors and the rest of the business community will open these doors for you. Overall, the local community strives for more entrepreneurs to come here. And when they come here, they will find a lot of support that they could not have imagined.”
ease of access
Cherry Capital Airport, recipient of the Cherry Wings Award for outstanding support of the US Coast Guard, makes getting in and out of Traverse City easier than ever. The airport continues to add flights, many direct.
Traverse City also offers many geographic advantages. Businesses can attract national customers and bring them to the region with little effort, Nesbitt says.
Finally, if you’re still undecided about choosing Traverse City for your business, take a local entrepreneur’s word for it.
“Do it,” says Bonhag. “Be proactive and speak openly about your interest in running your business in Traverse City. Let them know you’re coming and what you’re up to. Test the waters and see what the community can do to get you here.”
This article was sponsored by traverse connection.