Rex Dobson was 3 years old when his parents moved to the rambling, two-story farmhouse on Ruby Ellen Farm in Leelanau County in 1927. Dobson, now in his 80s, still lives in that house. Like many other farms in the area, Dobson’s fourth-generation operation produces tart cherries and sweet cherries, rye, wheat, oats and hay on 148 acres – open land that will never be covered with concrete or sliced up for subdivisions.
In many ways, the Dobson farm is an accurate representation of the economic goals that drive the Traverse City business world. To sustain economic growth without neglecting the importance of natural land preservation is a fine line that Traverse City has skillfully walked for many years.
Growth is inevitable in the Traverse City area, but smart growth is a must. Conservation groups in northwest Michigan realize that residential and commercial growth for the Grand Traverse Bay region must be balanced with a long-term preservation of the area’s natural, scenic and farm lands.
New Designs for Growth
As such, the organization New Designs for Growth (NDG) has been an asset for promoting this idea of eco-friendly economics. Encouraging good stewardship of the land and resources in this spectacular setting and preserving the quality of life while maintaining a strong economy is the focus of NDG – and always has been.
In the second decade of the initiative, launched in 1992 by the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, NDG is working to build on its solid foundation and address current pressing issues, such as housing and transportation, as well.
NDG was an outgrowth of several 2020 visioning sessions conducted in Grand Traverse County in 1990. With growth exploding in the area, which includes Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie, Antrim and Kalkaska counties, community advocates recognized the need to promote communication and collaboration on development in the area within the context of the region’s natural setting, a major draw for new residents and tourists alike.
The Grand Traverse Bay Region Development Guidebook is a testament to the belief that you can have it all – in this case economic prosperity and a healthy, desirable place to live. The newest version, scheduled to come out in December 2005, underscores that belief.
The Cherry Capital of the World
Another economic goldmine in Traverse City is the tart cherry. Michigan is the nation’s leading producer of tart cherries, and the Grand Traverse region produces more than half of the state’s annual tart cherry crop and about 80 percent of Michigan’s annual sweet cherry crop.
The area has also given rise to a critically acclaimed wine industry, thanks to an ideal climate with vineyards protected by winter snows and conditions moderated by proximity to Lake Michigan.
And by giving hundreds of people employment in working the fields, the processing plants, the equipment stores and other support industries, the local farms and vineyards have formed an enormous agri-economy.
With the farm industry, the cherry industry, New Designs for Growth and Traverse City’s commitment to smart economic growth, this Michigan town knows how to keep on growing with a steady local economy.
Find more on Traverse City, MI's economy.