Future Five (well, 3 of them) talk about Ludington’s present and future

May 1, 2014
Brandy Henderson and Andrew Thomas talk about Ludington's future during coffee at Riverflats Coffee & Tea in PM Twp.

Brandy Henderson and Andrew Thomas talk about Ludington’s future during coffee at Riverflats Coffee & Tea in PM Twp.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

The strength of a community’s future relies on its youth. I’m not sure if anyone can really doubt that statement. Over the past 10 years there seems to be a movement in our community, its leadership seems to be getting younger. While age certainly brings wisdom, youth tends to bring freshness and alternative ways of looking at things. I believe our community tends to have a good blend of both.

This year the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce announced a new category to its annual awards, the Future Five. The individuals were nominated by community members and ultimately chosen by the chamber board of directors. They will each share the title equally.

The primary restrictions to qualify for the award was that the nominee must live in Mason County and must be between the ages of 21 to 40 on or before Dec. 31, 2014.

This year’s recipients include:

– Andrew Thomas, owner of AM Galleries of Ludington and Starving Artist Brewery of Amber Township

– Brandy Henderson, Executive Director of the Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

– Travis Miedema, assistant supervisor at FloraCraft.

– Brad Reed, co-owner of Todd & Brad Reed Photography.

– Megan Payment, co-owner of The Mitten Bar, Barley & Rye and Events Coordinator for the chamber.

I had the opportunity to sit down with three of the five, Andrew, Brandy and Brad, earlier in the week and we talked about their choice to live and work in Mason County, their perception of the area in its current state and what they think of the future. Here’s what they had to say:

“I never thought I would be back here,” 26-year-old Brandy said. “But being back here I really get the whole sense of community of what this area is about. Whether its the business community, your neighborhood, this place just has a sense of community. When I am working I am with my friends and neighbors.”

“For me it just made the most sense,” said Andrew, 33. “When I was a kid my family literally moved all over the country. When I was really young my parents were in the military. I moved here in 1996 and of all the places we ended up this place has everything I would be looking for. It’s kind of nothing more but nothing less. There’s a subtle attractiveness to that, when you have all you need but you have to get creative to do something sometimes.

“I think being here is just a mix of fate and desire.”

“I have deep roots here,” said Brad, 36. “I am sixth generation to live in the Ludington area on both my dad’s and my mom’s side of the family. The quality of people, the year round stunning beauty of the area and the quality of the light are reasons I knew I would live in Ludington my entire life.”

Ludington has seen some dynamic changes over the past 10 to 20 years. There has been a new emphasis to once again make downtown Ludington the gathering place of the community. The development of the waterfront has changed the once industrial shoreline to an attractive park feel. The three talked about how they see Ludington and Mason County today:

“Everybody seems to be working together today,” Brad said. “All the townships, the city boards, the chamber, the CVB, the police, the fire, the DPWs. Everyone finally sees the light that if we work together we all win. That has taken years for that to finally happen. (Former Ludington Mayor) John Henderson and many others played a huge roll in that transformation.”

“There is a cultural awareness and motivation, which is a newer quality to the area,” Andrew said. “I don’t think we’ve gotten to the point of giving it a name yet, nor do I think we should. But, we have a lot of things happening such as the maritime museum and the center for the arts. There’s certainly a cultural awareness in the area.”

“It’s vital that we see Ludington and the surrounding area as a place to be beyond the 12 weeks of summer,” Brandy said. “It’s also important that we embrace the fact that we are a visitor destination but we are also a place to live. The focus on what we’ve done downtown is a great example of making this a more sustainable place to live.”

While youth has its advantages, it also has its challenges.

“There’s always a challenge with young people trying to do new things. You are always going to have the mentality of those who say ‘that’s not how we do it here.’ For the five of us and other young people we’re always up against that and our challenge is to push back and ask ‘why not?’”

“That mentality is getting snubbed,” Andrew said. “We used to have people afraid of those other people. Now, if you’re afraid, well then just leave. I see the challenges as opportunities.”

Brad sees one of the area’s biggest challenges as the funding of schools. “For decades people moved to Mason County because we had top notch schools. We still do, but they need more money. We need to support more bonds, millages, etc. and keep our schools and staff ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the state.”

He said it’s also time Ludington moves on from its industrial past and be part of the market.

“We need to get over the idea that big manufacturing is going to be the key to our success and change that focus to education, tourism, health care and green energy. Those four things take care of the locals, but also lure in millions of dollars worth of new residents and smaller businesses.”

The three basically agreed that the future of the area equals many of the challenges, including finding ways to make the area a destination to visitors throughout the year, not just in the summer. Naturally, making the Ludington area a place to live for all educational backgrounds is the ultimate goal, though, which they each agreed.

The Future Five will be presented Saturday night during the chamber’s annual dinner at Lincoln Hills. The annual community service and business of the year awards will also be presented.

 Editor’s note: All five of the nominees were given the opportunity to answer our questions. 

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