Well, well! Last week was a BIG week for the Traverse CIty Young Professionals. We were contacted by the Michigan Govenor's office a while back about hosting a roundtable discussion with Governor Rick Snyder. A lot of planning and organization went into making this happening, but the outcome was incredible.
Last Friday, at an invitation-only event, fifteen YPs from different businesses and backgrounds sat at a table with Governor Snyder to ask him questions and give him feedback about what young professionals want for our wonderful state of Michigan. It was an experience of a lifetime, and I was so honored to be invited and snap some photos.
There was a lot of hubbub before the roundtable discussion started. I walked around the room and chatted with familiar faces and met some new folks, too. Our panelists, selected by their industry or expertise in our community, took their seats at the table and awaited the Governor's arrival.
Honestly, this was about as close to any public governmental figure as I've ever been, and I was pretty nervous that I was going to trip over a speaker cord or something and make a huge fool of myself. And I wasn't even asking a question! I can only imagine how nerve-wracked our panelists were, but as I expected, they did a fantastic job.
Governor Snyder took his place at the head of the table, next to Kent Wood from the TC Chamber. Kent gave some opening remarks, as did Governor Snyder, and then the conversation worked its way around the table as each of our panelists asked their question. Here is a summary of the YPs that were present and the topics they chose:
Jessica Wheaton (TC Light & Power): Promoting/incentivizing staying in Michigan for current residents. "Live Michigan"
Warren Call (Huntington National Bank): Support for Michigan's water resources and combatting invasive species
Allison Beers (Events North): Future of public education in Michigan
Rachel Johnson (Cherryland Electric): Growing & sustaining diverse economic development
Josh Janowiak (Platinum Sound): Transportation and road funding
Jeff Fedorinchik (Hallmark Construction): Incentivizing/Encouraging young people to join trades
Drew Bucholz (Interlochen Center for the Arts): Arts and cultural funding
Shannon Owen (Northwestern Michigan College): Higher education funding
Bryan Taggert (Larkin Group): Tax reform in Michigan
Andrew Kohlman (Image 360): Struggles for "green" businesses
Todd Sanders (Sanders Solutions): More YP involvement in Government
Marie Chantal-Delese (Chateau Chantal): Regulation for farm/food industry
Lee Michaels (Cherry Capital Foods): Creating a career market place for future workforce
Tracy Wittkop (Munson Healthcare): Northern Michigan Rural OB health service funding
As a young professional living in Michigan, I was so pleased with all the questions posed by our panel. Support for small businesses and farming, concerns about education at all levels, needs for better public and bicycle transportation, concerns about protecting our Great Lakes, and making entrepreneurship more accessible for young people…yes, please! These are all issues near and dear to my heart, and to have the Governor in the room responding to all our concerns--truly having our voices heard--that is something that is unlikely to come around again for our organization. What a privilege!
Governor Snyder did a great job listening to our concerns and understanding our wants for this state. He wanted to know what encourages young people to find a place in Michigan to call home, and also asked us to get involved in our local communities. He is working to build more trails in Michigan, but asks that the trail users work to make trails open for all kinds of activities, not specialized and limited to only a few. Greater pre-K education funding will hopefully make an impact across our entire education system, and upgrades in technology will help teachers as they work with students learning at different paces. Agriculture and arts are important topics to Governor Snyder, and he is pushing for more funding and support into these areas, as well as making it easier for young entrepreneurs to access funding for their businesses.
For us young professionals, we are constantly looking to improve our life/work balance: we want a place that fosters creativity and community, but also provides us with a steady, challenging job and a means to provide for ourselves and our families. Quality of life is the name of our game. Lucky for us, Governor Snyder agreed with the importance of these two issues, and encouraged all of us to get involved in our communities and continue building upon the wonderful foundation we all have in here Traverse City.
One of my favorite quotes from Governor Snyder was, "Do you want to be another yuppie in Chicago, or do you want to make a difference in Detroit?" Although we are far from Detroit, the message is the same: we live in a place where our voices, our opinions, and our choices make a difference. As citizens in this town, we can make a difference in transforming our economy and bringing others to the place we call home; we can share all the goodness to be found in Michigan.
We are young, but we are mighty, and we have the power to positively impact the place we live and help make it better for all. Personally, that is the kind of place I want to call home, and I am so glad to have that in Traverse City. Regardless of your political beliefs, getting involved in your local governance and community efforts can shape the place you live. So get out there, and get your voice heard!
All in all, it was a great experience to have this conversation with the Governor. I was so proud to see my friends up there, asking tough questions and wanting answers for their concerns about the future of our state.
Congratulations to all the YPs selected for the roundtable discussion, and a big "thank you" to Governor Snyder for sitting down and taking the time to listen to what we have to say!