Northern Michigan is known as an idyllic tourism destination, particularly during the summer and fall. But a job-generating tech sector is also surging here. Traverse City’s tech scene is already attracting more of the creative-class young professionals who are launching innovative ideas, creating jobs, making products, and shaping the region’s economy of tomorrow.
Central to that movement is TC New Tech founder Russell Schindler, a geologist and entrepreneur (and former owner/captain of Traverse City’s popular Nauticat party sailboat) who tired of driving 4 hours downstate for the Ann Arbor New Tech Meetup Group (A2 New Tech). TC New Tech launched in June 2015 and attracts 100-200 hopeful tech entrepreneurs to its monthly gatherings (the group now boasts 650 members). The venture’s popularity has forced TC New Tech to move from the Ecco Event Space to the historic City Opera House in downtown Traverse City for its upcoming Feb. 7 meeting. A technolgy incubator, which would support growing technogy-related start-ups, may be in the works.
Schindler is building a reputation for Traverse City, and he’s gotten well-deserved media attention for his efforts. Check out these stories about TC New Tech from Michigan Radio’s “The Next Idea”, the Traverse City Record-Eagle and the Traverse City Business News.
“My impression is that I just happened upon a big need, and just, people are lined up to present and to come to the meeting,” Schindler told Michigan Radio. “I literally took the model of the A2 New Tech meeting and copied the format,” said Schindler.
“Five years from now, we’ll look back and go, ‘That was it. That was the seed’,” he told the Business News.
Each meeting features five speakers, each of whom are allowed to present their idea for 5 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer session. The networking — usually accompanied by a beer or cocktail — that follows the presentations is even more valuable, says Schindler. During the schmoozing, entrepreneurs find funders, and employees, and other techies who can offer assistance with beta tests or coding. In fact, at the January meeting, as many as 20 tech jobs were offered to the crowd.
“People can share ideas and they can share concepts, you know, business ideas online and over the phone, but when you get together in the same room with those people, there’s some magic that happens,” Schindler said.
Can Traverse City support a growing tech scene — which is both symbiotic with, and distinct from, the region’s tourism postcard?
“First of all, it’s a very desirable place to live … and it’s really not that expensive a place to live either,” Schindler said. “And the people that are in the tech industry, they have a certain kind of lifestyle where they can just pick where they want to live, and, you know, they’re going to pick the more desirable places to live.”
Future TC New Tech monthly gatherings will focus on specific themes, that could ultimately lead to jobs in northern Michigan: healthcare and medical-related technology; films and the arts; agriculture and farming; housing and transit.
“These are problems that need innovative solutions,” said Schindler. “There’s a tech solution to every one of those problems.”
Check out Groundwork’s live, interactive conversation with Schindler on our Facebook feed, Facebook.com/GroundworkCenter. For more information about TC New Tech, visit TCNewTech.org. Past presentations are available on TC New Tech’s YouTube channel following the event.
Jacob Wheeler is the communications manager at Groundwork. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.