This networking post is part of an ethics and values series of writings, a talk for community business leaders, motivated more by pragmatic concerns than by religious interests. However, religious values are certainly implicit to the piece.
In this writing, it’s my intention to exercise caution and spare some details. I am not adding words at this point, although I have been providing some commentary in the previous footnotes (see Ethics & the G.T. Bay Area Region: 1. Developing & Holding to Our Values and Ethics & the GT Region, pt. 2: on Agriculture, Commercialization & Discretionary Income).
William Cavanaugh’s book Being Consumed addresses globalization as opposed to local culture. Even though we have some global commercial chains in the region, we have also held onto our heritage. My wife and I have lived in cities like this before, fairly picky about what big name companies are allowed in. Locally owned businesses thrive here. There is a commitment to who we are and that is a guiding value, or what Cavanaugh calls a telos.
JVI, GT East Bay | 07.23.18
Ethics & the GT Region, pt. 3: Real Networking vs. Our Own Business Departments
i. Young Professional Development
How are we helping young professionals settle into roles in the region? How are they going to help us progress? One answer I received is that there is a difference in the way younger planners see regional development as opposed to others in their fifties.
There may be a stark contrast between recent generations in Traverse City
This fall, one of our local business publications ran an article on forty top leaders in the region, all under the age of forty. One of those young leaders is Max Anderson, Executive Director of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Our chamber now offers a couple professional development networks. One is Leadership Grand Traverse which is for everyone. The other is Traverse City Young Professionals which serves young adults.
To assist young families, we offer regional child-care available through the Great Start Collaborative.
One person I interviewed said he has never seen anything like it in other cities. “If you can’t find mentoring in Traverse City, then you’re the problem!”
On the other hand, while preparing this talk, two of those top forty young adults lost their jobs. They both held high ranking offices. This is a hot topic in local news. No misconduct or poor performance has been reported. In fact, their good performance is why they were noticed as leaders in the area. They both were hired under a previous leader who left not long afterwards. It’s speculated that these two have been asked to leave, a decision that may be more politically motivated than anything.
I don’t know the reason, and I imagine no single news source has the whole story
I only want to point something out. If we want to invest in the next generation, it won’t happen if we don’t offer them a seat at the table. They are driven by meaningful work, i.e. a cause. If we do not share our power and our values with them, then our children and grandchildren will suffer under the inept leaders that we failed to develop.
Traverse City was actually better at communicating and networking at one time. We were a smaller town that was more interdependent in business, social, and church relationships. Small town values may still survive, but many professionals have become more progressive.
Churches used to be more engaged.
There used to be an extensive prayer network of pastors who met in small groups all over town every week
This was before my time here. At this point, there is only one remaining group from that era.
One person said a couple of pastors trashed the cloth. There were church splits and upheavals at larger churches. There were doctrinal differences that leaders failed to address. These are the reasons our regional church leaders are divided. Church fighting is difficult to hide in a relatively small town. Now our congregations take up their own causes. We can’t even make time to pick a central issue on an agenda. It’s disheartening that some people view our congregations this way, when we should be setting an example in the area of networking.
iii. Community Networking
While concluding this study, I had more questions than I began with. I was surprised when one person I spoke to said that all these issues are only a nice coffee talk. He said vineyards, hops, and alcohol are not the problem. Professional development for our young adults is not the issue. Networking is the issue. No one will come together unless there’s a cause.
Once again, I was surprised with what he said next. Although he works in a different field, he has friends in law enforcement. It’s not making the news, but we have a couple of terrible regional problems, human trafficking and opiate drugs.
His question is, why not network with other leaders to discuss real issues?
He says about one in six around here are addicted to an opiate like heroin or fentanyl. I have heard of this issue before. It’s not difficult to find news sources reporting that our opiate issues are higher than national averages. People are not dying at the bar or casino. They’re dying from one hit of fentanyl because it’s highly potent. He pointed out fatalities in recent news stories that my wife and I know about, where the cause was not reported. He knows it was from fentanyl. People have no idea how easily they can OD on this particular drug.
Human trafficking is something the state of Michigan is burdened with. Locally, children are sold to support expensive drug habits. There may be a couple of safe houses in the region, rescuing locals and people from out of state who come in hot, because their pimps are still hunting for them.
He stated that if we want to get something on the agenda that can truly help our region, why not start talking about these issues? These problems are on his heart every day as he starts the day. However, in his line of work, he does not have time to organize a network.
What could a network like this do for a region like ours?Could we stop it? Maybe a better question is asked by Steven Garber as he wraps up his book Visions of Vocation. Could we stop it for some? Wouldn’t that be worth something? Could we strive for the proximate, stopping it for as many as we can, knowing that it will probably continue for others.
Can we strive for proximate justice? Wouldn’t some of our efforts be better than none?
A network that works with major issues would be a great venture.
However, it may be difficult to sustain a volunteer network that focuses on deterring crime over time
However, if guiding outcomes were built-in from the beginning, the network could start with just one issue and eventually widen its ability to invest in our region. What is the end game, the hope we would all be striving for, the telos, the meaning, the cause?
We’re already witnessing a growing synergy among our young professionals. I could ask, what are they doing together that is similar to discipleship or catechesis in the church? In both instances, we gather together to develop people and incorporate them into community.
Cosco has finally set up a shop in our city this year.
We may soon discover that a similar set of values guides them
Jim Sinegal, a Cosco co-founder, discusses their unique work culture that makes headlines. Their values, like integrity, drive them in many ways. Sinegal says:
Honesty and doing the right thing cannot be the responsibility of management alone. Every level of the company should understand what the rules are and every employee in the company should be mortified if the company and its people don’t do what they are supposed to do. The attitude has got to be pervasive throughout the organization: “We don’t do that kind of stuff around here! Period!”
If a network at least shares common values, then those values will guide them as they act on troubling issues, and as they seek to help others develop. A strategic network like that could possibly make a difference in a community like ours.
Clifton Taulbert is the President of the Freemount Corporation, an author, a sought after speaker, and an expert on community development
His character development materials are used in American schools and prisons. He helps communities form these types of networks, like those we once had. He brings leaders together who are already invested in the community, like clergy, health care professionals, educators, those in the social sectors, etc.
His approach is unique. We think of professional development and even church discipleship as something that makes an individual stronger. Clifton focuses on making the community stronger, a community that will naturally raise up healthy generations. He shares stories of communities like ours where people used to know each other. We used to have a vested interest in each other. Your success used to be my success.
Have our busy lives, our corporate ladders, and competitive practices caused us to forget some things that should not have been forgotten?
Do we care about networking in ways that could actually encourage us and help us achieve collective goals, instead of just mine, or those in my business department?
Could we not only strive for our own success, but also expect the best of others? Clifton states:
Expecting the best of others and praising their achievements was not just the long-ago practice of a small-town group of visionaries. It must be practiced wherever we live, where we work and where we play. We must look for ways to lift the sights of those who feel downcast, and we must remember to extend words of encouragement and praise when fellow workers, students, volunteers, or teammates have done well. This is especially important if the accomplishment seems modest but contributes to the building of a good, productive community. Small acts of community-building can be of immense value.
This project is only a modest contribution. I am still in awe of the community dynamics that I’m discovering in Traverse City. I’m thankful for those who have taken time to talk with me. I hope that a desire will arise among us to support networks and forge new ones that will pass along our values to future generations.
 William T. Cavanaugh, Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008), 65-68.
 Ross Boissoneau, “2017 40Under40: The Region’s Most Influential Professionals Under Age 40,” Traverse City Business News (September 2017), http://www.tcbusinessnews.com/40under40-the-regions-most-influential-professionals-under-age-of-40/ (November 8, 2017).
 Albert Erisman and David Gill, “A Long Term Business Perspective in a Short Term World: A Conversation with Jim Sinegal,” in Beyond Integrity: A Judeo-Christian Approach to Business Ethics, 2nd ed., ed. Scott B. Rae and Kenman L. Wong (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 147.