After the leaves leave, Leelanau County works to build economy less dependent on tourism by Howard Lovy in Crains Detroit talks with J.T. "Chip" Hoagland of the Leelanau County Economic Development Corp and Matt McCauley of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments about using agriculture, food processing and the growing interest in local foods to create a more robust economy on the Leelanau Peninsula.
According to a report produced by the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments "accommodation and food services" represented about one in six total jobs available in Leelanau County as of 2009. And, increasingly, these jobs are no longer seasonal only.
"It's really interesting how many restaurants are in the county and the fact that most of those stay open year round," said Matt McCauley, director of regional planning for the council of governments.
Like Hoagland, McCauley credits the local-food movement for a restaurant boom that is not so dependent on tourist season.
"Leelanau County is truly a leader in a resurgence around agriculture," McCauley said. "Because of the wineries, hops farms, all sorts of burgeoning agriculture and value-added activity, all sorts of people are choosing to locate here to be part of that."
By "value-added," he means businesses such as Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, which not only uses local cherries but also turns them into chocolates, jam and other products that then are shipped around the world.
In addition, McCauley said, "The restaurants in the region — and we're getting more and more notoriety as a foodie destination — are choosing and actually seeking out local products for their menu items."
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Photo credit: Nic of 9 Bean Rows, Harvesting Greens by Ken Scott