Communities often are defined by their economic activity — a factory town, bedroom community, a ghost town, or Michigan’s own “Motor City.” For generations, Traverse City was best known as the Cherry Capital of the World. While our area continues to be among the world leaders in cherry production, the Grand Traverse region’s aura these days extends far beyond our signature fruit. Our backyard has evolved into one of the country’s hottest tourist destinations, boasts a thriving wine, food and craft beverage scene, a growing technology sector, a strong manufacturing base, vibrant local and national retailers, widely renowned arts and cultural attractions, top-flight recreation opportunities, and so much more.
What’s the thread binding these burgeoning segments of the regional economy that continues to raise our profile? They all are powered by small businesses — entrepreneurial start-ups, family-owned companies, corporations brought here from other areas — all examples of the tremendous economic impact of small business across Northwest Michigan.
The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce 13 years ago launched its Small Business Celebration to spotlight the very foundation of our regional economy — and bring individual recognition to the companies and people who fuel its engine. Over the years we’ve recognized manufacturers, technology firms, service providers, financial institutions, construction companies, and fabricators — even a regional cooperative. The breadth of the Small Business Celebration further underscores the incredible diversity and ingenuity that permeates our small business sector.
The Chamber also has worked hard to make the Small Business Celebration a true community event. Anyone is welcome to submit nominations for the SBC, and offer as many as they’d like. The public also is welcome to the annual Candidates Showcase, a no-cost and always-fun event where participating companies show off their people, products and services.
The positives from the Small Business Celebration touch every company that becomes part of it. We’ve heard from numerous honorees — Kalkaska Screw Products, Oryana Natural Foods Market, Pine Hill Nursery, Image360 and others — that the real benefit from their participation wasn’t in being selected as the Hagerty Small Business of the Year. The payoff happens every step of the way: the introspection and self-evaluation in the application process; the team-building experience in preparing to promote your company at the Candidates Showcase; the knowledge learned from other business owners at the Top 10 Breakfast; extensive media coverage; insight gained from meeting with SBC judges and more.
And now, thanks to the growing support for the Small Business Celebration from our sponsors — Hagerty, Northwestern Michigan College, Priority Health, 9&10 News and others — the Hagerty Small Business of the Year is awarded dozens of hours of employee and executive training and a $5,000 match from Hagerty to a community non-profit of the company’s choice.
So let us know about your favorite small business and encourage them to be part of this unique community event. Visit the Chamber’s website at www.tcchamber.org and click on the Events tab and the Small Business Celebration link to submit your nominations by March 16. Nominated businesses are encouraged to apply by the April 13 deadline, so we can feature them at the Candidates Showcase on April 24. Also mark your calendars for the SBC Top 10 Breakfast on May 22, all building toward the Award Ceremony on June 4. All of the SBC events are held at Northwestern Michigan College’s Hagerty Center.
Small business has never been more critical to the success of Northwest Michigan, and the ever-expanding buzz around the Chamber’s Small Business Celebration is living proof of its growing impact. We’re more excited than ever to get started — hop in for another great ride! Max Anderson is the executive director of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.