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Leelanau County businesses have found an innovative solution to the region’s vexing affordable housing and workforce recruitment crisis. County government, chambers of commerce, and local businesses will team up to build a vast tent encampment at the vacant and abandoned Sugar Loaf property, which was once a cherished ski resort and Leelanau’s biggest year-round employer before gangsters, con-men and real estate tycoons closed it for good nearly 25 years ago. “We had the same housing and workforce crisis in the metropolis of Traverse City,” said Rikardo Liko, former Traverse City chancellor and Leelanau’s current interim county administrator. “But the tent encampment in the pines in the Grand Traverse Commons solved all that. We found that hardworking people who can’t afford to pay $3,000 per month for rent in northern Michigan, and can’t afford a $1 million home on the water, could instead live in tents in the woods and keep our tourism and service economics afloat.”

The long-awaited New Waves project on Bugai Road at M-72 is breaking ground. The much-anticipated affordable housing collaboration between Habitat Grand Traverse Region and New Waves United Church of Christ is a reality. The basic site work and roads are in place, and on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 3 pm shovels will break ground for the first homes to be built.

Do you own or rent property in Benzie or Leelanau counties with extra space in your home/property? Want to make additional income to offset the cost of owning or renting your home? Sign up to host a local employee in your home via the Sleeping Bear Gateways Council’s Housing Exchange.

The Sleeping Bear Gateways Council (SBGC) is hosting its annual meeting as a virtual event on Zoom at 5 p.m. on Thursday, August 25. The session will feature updates on the group’s projects as well as comments from leadership of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. All individuals with interest in the Sleeping Bear area are invited to join the meeting.

For college students and others seeking summer employment in Benzie and Leelanau counties, getting a job is often the easy part. The hard part comes in finding a place to live. “It’s a significant barrier to anyone who’s not local,” said Isabella Beshouri, a University of Michigan student who spent a month in 2021 finding a summer rental after being hired as an intern at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. That barrier is being lowered in 2022 and beyond through an innovative “seasonal employee housing exchange” sponsored by the Sleeping Bear Gateways Council (SBGC) and funded through grants from local foundations and the federal government.

As the housing market in northern Michigan continues to grow more competitive, some young entrepreneurs are finding creative solutions to their housing problems. Emily Grof is the architectural associate at the firm Design Smiths in Traverse City. She is one such creative problem solver who, with the help of Facebook Marketplace and Traverse City-based tiny-home builder Levi Meeuwenberg, has come up with a small solution for herself to the looming question of where to live.

This coming July, Shipwreck Café owner Steve Nowicki won’t have to log 200-hour weeks together with his staff of four, throwing together sandwiches and slinging pizzas as fast as a hummingbird for thousands of hungry tourists headed for packed beaches in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. That’s because Leelanau County is launching an innovative new program that puts waiters, clerks, and housekeepers in every extra bed in every house.

Today we’re featuring Leelanau County Commissioner, Democrat Ty Wessell (District 4, Northport), who is running unopposed this election. We asked Wessel the following six questions.

If you have been to the Empire Village Inn in the last two years, you have likely noticed some changes. The menu has been revamped, the beer menu has expanded, and the bar has been rebuilt, all thanks to the newest general manager, Riley Scott, who was hired by owner Frank Lerchen in the fall of 2017. Scott had been working in the restaurant industry in Grand Rapids, and moved north when offered a management position to help make some changes to the establishment.

The topic of housing in Leelanau County––and the lack of affordable housing––is one that seems to come up often for those who live here. Among my peers––entrepreneurs and workers in their late-20s to early-30s––housing discussions are often filled with a bit of discouragement.