4 Cool Jobs in Traverse City, Michigan

October 23, 2023

By Heather Cherry for Livability.com

Traverse City offers the best of both worlds. By day, residents can enjoy a thriving career, and by night and weekend, they can experience superb restaurants, fun community events, countless trails and, of course, beautiful Lake Michigan.

Also exciting? The region is home to some pretty cool jobs, and they’re spread out across several fields – think the technology, creative, manufacturing, and freelance/independent contractor sectors. This means everyone can land a great career, no matter their skills or interests. Ahead, learn about four cool jobs – and the industries they fall under – in Traverse City.

1. Tech Entrepreneur
The technology industry is on the upswing in Traverse City, and the region is seeing several companies, especially startups, arriving on the scene. One example is Hybrid Robotics, which designs and manufactures marine robotic solutions for research and inspections. This particular company falls under the blue tech industry. Blue technology is any technology, system or platform that is designed for use or application above, on, or below the water surface, or that is otherwise applicable to Coast Guard operational needs.

Another tech company that’s found great success in Traverse City is ActionGlow, the world’s leading aftermarket LED lighting system for sporting equipment. Founded by brothers Dakota and Garret Porter as teenagers, the two devised an idea that would soon flip the action sports industry on its head – they added LED lights to their snowboards. Today, they have three collections – land, snow and water – meaning customers can purchase LED systems for everything from snowboards and skis to surfboards, SUPs, longboards and even bikes.

The brothers say they wouldn’t be where they are today if they had started their business elsewhere.

“It’s a combination of all the support from the Traverse City community. The amount of support we received from the business community is immeasurable,” says Garret Porter, COO of ActionGlow. “Traverse City is so beautiful. We are fortunate to have grown up in the area and encourage anyone considering starting a business here to do so.”

2. Creative Founder
Traverse City’s creative sector houses several subsectors like music, creative technology, design, film and architecture. Thanks to the combination of technology, innovation, creativity, remote work, and access to capital, the industry continues to expand. Examples of successful businesses in the creative sector include:

  • Lómr Studio, which is a team of creators and doers who develop video and photo solutions.
  • Placecraft, a community development firm that works with people and organizations, including nonprofits, governments and boards.
  • Commonality Architecture, which collaborates with owners, builders and consultants to work through ideas and design problems to come up with practical, innovative solutions.
  • Designsmiths, a group of commercial and residential architects that create intentional and unique designs to enhance an environment.

One of the many benefits of working in Traverse City’s creative industry is that it provides flexibility.

“The industry, in general, is so broad [that] it allows us to pick and choose what projects we want to work on,” says Grant Piering, founder of Lómr Studio. “A specific perk of working in this industry is the work-life balance. One of my favorite things is to exercise outdoors, and this job allows me to do a lot of it.”

Elise Crafts, founder and principal of Placecraft, agrees that the industry offers flexibility, saying “[I can] jet off to wherever and still get my work done.”

Another positive aspect of being part of the creative sector is that it is welcoming and supportive – things that both Crafts and Piering have experienced.

“Traverse City is not a place you pass through – you must want to be here. But once you’re here, it’s a place of instant camaraderie,” Crafts says.

Piering says he has gotten to know several great people in the industry.

“It never feels competitive. Everyone is encouraging and collaborative.”

3. Manufacturer
Manufacturing has a long history in the Traverse City area, but it has expanded over the years to include everything from food and beverages to assembled products, metals and print production. Examples of companies that fall within this sector include TentCraft, which creates custom-branded tents and structures, and Evil Queen, a candle manufacturing company.

The variety of manufacturing companies here provides residents with options when it comes to searching for a job. However, there is plenty of room in the market for entrepreneurs who want to launch a business in this sector, as well. For those who take the plunge, the region offers several resources, like funding and grant opportunities, as well as organizations that are ready to help.

“As the owner of a candle company, it’s cool to be involved in multiple industries. I get to do many different things, and no two days are the same,” says Ida-Sofia Koivuniemi, who started Evil Queen in her apartment in Los Angeles in 2016 and relocated to Traverse City in 2021. “Traverse City has been a great place to have my business. It’s a beautiful city with many wonderful people to work with.”

4. Creative Director
The freelance and independent contractor bubble in the Traverse City area is growing, thanks to a talent attraction initiative called Michigan’s Creative Coast, which is making it easier to connect talent with companies. Through the initiative, creative freelancers and independent entrepreneurs can showcase their resumes, portfolios and services to businesses and employers.

Examples of those in the freelance/independent contractor industry include:

  • Lindsey Mak, a fashion and food photographer.
  • HILLTOP MEDIA CO., which makes photo and video production approachable for small to medium brands.
  • OB & Co. Media, which brings a unique, diverse perspective to new media content creation and digital marketing.

“I’ve found myself drawn to locally oriented businesses with big dreams to serve the community and beyond,” says Max Buzzell, creative director and founder of OB & Co. Media. “I get to work with them on various tasks, [like] branding, web design, content creation, packaging design, and social media support. I love that digital spaces move fast, and I get to continuously evolve my process. I feel so lucky to be inspired by this area’s innovative, creative and dedicated minds.”

Sabrina Hyde, owner of HILLTOP, says working in the freelance and independent contractor industry allows for creative problem-solving.

“I get to work with highly talented and creative people, and as a freelancer, I get to be my boss. Opportunities aren’t limited to one industry or brand, and I can go anywhere and work with anyone,” Hyde says. “But this is the place to live – [it has] everything, including small-town vibe, endless natural beauty, water and great outdoor activities. It also makes for a good video shoot location.”

This a rticle was sponsored by Traverse Connect.