IPR series looks at growth in Northern Michigan

The Traverse City region is often referred to as a lovely place to live, with beautiful vistas, great spots to eat, and excellent services. But is that the whole picture? Is it exactly as great as everyone thinks?

That’s one of the issues at the heart of one of Interlochen Public Radio’s newest programs, titled Which Way to Paradise: Struggle and Promise Up North.

Which Way to Paradise began airing in mid-September and has featured stories about families, businesses and culture, all viewed through the lens of the region’s expansion.

“We really want to look at the people and the place—this Traverse City region—and do it in a way that tells the story that is interesting beyond the borders of the region,” said IPR General Manager Sally Eisele. “Because it’s really about growth—how does a small community handle a boom, both good and bad?”

Growth is something the northwestern Michigan region is fairly family with, though the boom has seemed to taper off a bit in recent years.

“When I came here in 2000, growth was rampant. I mean everywhere. Condo development. Road proposals. There were fights over sprawl,” said IPR News Director Peter Payette. “We really aren’t seeing that same kind of growth today, but what we are seeing is this growth in certain sectors of the economy—there are parts of this region that are just really strong and very attractive. So we wanted to get that. And as we brought people in and had conversations with community leaders, we realized that there’s this whole other group of people that are really not participating in that.”

IPR’s new show isn’t just focused on the area’s growth, though. It’s really about the people.

“We started out by asking the question: Who is coming here and why? And what's the impact of that growth—and do we have the services to be able to meet the needs of this rapidly growing population?” Eisele said. “It became apparent that there are certain population groups that are leaving because they can’t afford to live here. … There are such vast pockets of rural poverty in particular that are being left behind. So that goes back to the series title, ‘Which Way to Paradise?’ Or whether paradise is a paradise. That really needs to be explored.”

IPR hopes that through this program, voices that are not always heard will get an opportunity to tell their stories on the growth and impact of Traverse City. After all, there is a great deal of difference between being a large town and a small city. And depending on who you talk to, one of those is Paradise.

Get involved in the conversation: Go to interlochenpublicradio.org or call the listener comment line at 231.276.4441.

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