By: Benjamin J. Gohs, Associate Editor
Housing, economic development, education, governance and more will be the topic of discussion at this year’s Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce State of the Community luncheon at noon on Friday Nov. 18. While the community is invited to attend this event, to be held at Sommerset Pointe, cost is $20 per person and tickets must be reserved by noon on Tuesday Nov. 15.“I think it’s a good way to get an update, in a couple of hours or less, on the community from four significant organizations,” said Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Baumann. “I think we’ve been lucky enough in the last few years that our future really looks good and that’s made it a really upbeat event.”
Baumann said Boyne area realtor and Charlevoix County Commissioner Chris Christensen (R-District 2), Boyne City Manager Michael Cain, Boyne City Main Street Program and DDA Executive Director Hugh Conklin, and Boyne City Public Schools Superintendent Peter Moss are this year’s guest speakers. “It’s always interesting,” he said. “This drills down and gives you some meat to hear about exactly what’s going on and why things are going well and more of a glimpse into the future.”
Cain remains cautiously optimistic about Boyne’s future. “I think we made some real progress this last year,” he said. “We’ve bucked some trends with the number of businesses we have helped locate in the industrial park and central business district.” He added, “We are doing well, if not better, than some other communities, but, there are still plenty of challenges in this tough economy.” Cain said it may be too early to tell if Michigan, let alone the nation, is pulling out of the recent recession for good. “We’ve been gradually increasing – building momentum,” he said. “You’re going to have some ebbs and flows and not everything always goes good, but I would characterize it as a positive trend and we have been picking up steam the last couple years.” Cain added, “I’d like to see a few more years of growth under our belt to make sure this (economy in general) is a long-term trend and not just a blip.” Cain said the reasons behind Boyne’s success when so many other towns are having difficulty are numerous. “It’s a combination of a whole bunch of things: teamwork, how the community works together, vision of what the community wants it to be and a lot of community-minded businesses,” he said.
On the economic development side of things, Conklin said leadership and communication have brought Boyne to a position of envy among communities struggling to find their identity. “The best interests of the community are always on the forefront, and our leadership communicates with one another,” he said. “It pays enormous benefits; it seems so simple and common sense, but it is really so important that people are on the same page and have common vision of the future.” Conklin said some of the community economic developmental goals include seeing the Dilworth Hotel rehabilitation project through, ensuring infrastructure is maintained and improved where necessary, business retention, recruitment and providing professional development services to businesses which need help. “I’m just a servant to the needs of what may come up,” he said. “I bring people and ideas together and do legwork and research that may need to be done.” Conklin added, “We kind of go through goal-setting on a semi-regular basis and those remain pretty consistent.”
And, the current state of things? “I think Boyne City is doing fairly well. I think all signs are there’s a lot of positive energy in the community,” Conklin said. Some of the challenges Conklin sees facing Boyne City are by no means news to community leaders. “We’re always challenged with how to keep a community healthy and vibrant and create opportunities for residents,” he said. “It’s an ongoing struggle to balance those sort of things.” Conklin added, “The challenge remains: how do we bring the public sector and private sector together to work for goals for the common good of the community?” Maintaining that growth and positive energy, Conklin said will help ensure Boyne City’s continued success.
“The people that call Boyne City ‘home’ are are very excited about what it’s becoming: keeping its heritage intact while moving forward,” he said. “If we can capitalize on that to bring good solid productive investment into the community, that has a tendency of feeding on itself.”
Conklin said Boyne stakeholders are good about putting their personal agendas aside and avoiding pointless arguments that have a tendency to mire progress. “We can’t quarrel about things that don’t matter in the big picture,” he said. “Right now there is a big sense of unity and common goal.” Conklin said Boyne City is, historically, a community in transition. “For a while it was industrial and then tourism and resorts,” he said. “You always want change to happen quickly but it does take time for things to evolve … and Boyne City has evolved.”
What is the state of education in Boyne City? “First of all, we (Boyne City Public Schools) are doing very well in spite of the many challenging issues we continue to face … most notably, funding,” Moss said. “Because of a negotiation process that had both sides of the table understanding the gravity of the situation, an agreement that substantially reduced expenditures spared reductions to programming and staff that many other districts had to implement.” Moss said an increase in enrollment by 36 students has helped the district avoid drastic reductions in staff and services. “In the area of achievement, we continue to make strides in targeting those things deemed important for students to learn. Our test scores compare very favorably with surrounding districts as well as statewide,” he said. “Although our results are solid, we will continue to explore ways to ensure success for all students.” Moss added, “Of course, we are very excited about the progress of transforming our classrooms into 21st century learning environments.”
Next, the district will explore the devices most appropriate to use at the middle and high school level.
What does this mean for Boyne City? “I see Boyne City continuing to provide a first-rate education to all types of learners,” Moss said. “I see the use of technology becoming more and more of an instructional and learning tool as teachers and students become more comfortable with its potential inside, and outside, the classroom.” Moss said if, and when funding stabilizes, the district will have the opportunity to seek further extra-curricular programs. “I think the number one issue facing our district will be the ability to fund the continuance of quality programs,” he said. “Just as other districts have done, we have learned to do more with less.” Moss added, “Because of the leadership in our community, I think the Boyne City community will continue to be vibrant and grow – This leads to jobs; and with jobs, young families find their way to Boyne City because it’s a great place to live, raise a family and prosper.”
For tickets, go to 28 South Lake St. or call (231) 582-6222. Ticket price includes lunch.