Midland has long held the reputation as the destination for families to land and plant roots for the future. But now, young professionals are drawn from cities for the affordability of real estate and close proximity to a top four chemical company in the world, and they aren’t all cut from the cloth of desiring a family above all else.
With a new generation of leaders and philanthropists on the rise, we sat down with a few in the area about why they chose to build their future here and how they hope to be agents of progress in the community moving forward.
All ages share what they love most about Midland at the recent Riverdays Festival.
Jeff and Laura Havens
For Jeff and Laura Havens, a big draw was the ease and accessibility to other things. Midland residents for four years this month, the couple relocated from Madison, Wisconsin. With travel a big part of his career as a keynote speaker and corporate trainer, Jeff found the ease of commuting and dealing with logistics a welcome change.
“With as much as I travel, it’s really nice to have the MBS airport so close and it couldn’t be any easier getting in and out compared to larger airports,” says Havens. “And in Midland, you’re a flat few minutes or less to anywhere else, so much so that I often just wander in places versus calling ahead. We’ve found so much by just walking in and talking to people, from our doctors, children’s resources and even volunteer opportunities.”
Havens noted that Midland immediately felt familiar, as he grew up in Bloomington, Illinois, a town of relatively the same size and home to State Farm’s corporate headquarters.
Jeff Havens and his wife Laura have called Midland home for four years.
The Havens have used that ease of access to bring about positive change as well. Jeff serves on the board of the Affordable Housing Alliance and the couple has been the catalyst behind several small development efforts around Midland including Patrick Road and US-10 overpass mural, the Greater Michigan Construction Academy’s (GMCA) tool library and more than 15 Little Libraries scattered around town.
One of Jeff and Amy Havens Little Libraries in Midland.
The Havens started the Little Libraries effort to increase small-scale exploration and learning. With locations at Creative 360, West Midland Family Center, Greater Midland Community Center, Chippewa Nature Center and several others in and around neighborhoods each of the libraries are uniquely designed and most importantly free of charge.
Havens notes that a big selling point of Midland was the quantity and quality of amenities for a city of our size. Coming from Madison, which has a much bigger population, the couple was pleasantly surprised to find a long list of resources and activities to fit their needs. Havens praised the quality of programming at Midland Center for the Arts, Chippewa Nature Center and Dow Gardens, something they are looking forward to enjoying as a family into when life slows down – currently their one-year old keeps them on their toes.
Midland boasts plenty of options for outdoor recreation.
Coming from Madison, a city with water access, Havens added that a significant opportunity he saw for Midland is better utilization of the river as a resource for recreation, events and programming. “There is great potential to use the area year-round and with a town full of engineers, it’s well within our ability,” says Havens.
Tyler and Ashley Kring
Tyler Kring is the Director of Partnership Activation for the Great Lakes Loons. A native of Cadillac and a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, he’s experienced the broad spectrum of city and country living and says Midland is the ideal middle ground.
With a dream to work in sports and entertainment and specifically for a sports team, Kring was introduced to Midland in the summer of 2012 working as an intern for the Great Lakes Loons. Following a few summers of internship experiences, Kring came on board with the Loons full time in 2015, purchasing a house with his wife Ashley.
Tyler and Ashely Kring think Midland is the best of both worlds having spent time living in both small and large areas.
“I’ve been approached to go elsewhere in the past but chose to stay in Midland because of the great Midwestern atmosphere. We spend more time with the team during the season so having a family-friendly aspect was important,” says Kring. “In terms of quality of town and life, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit didn’t compare to Midland. Ease of living and affordability are hard to beat in this area.”
Growing up in Cadillac, Kring noted the dichotomy of the two – having to drive a half hour to the supermarket for milk up north to walking to dinner in Ann Arbor.
The new addition of the canopy walk at Whiting Forest is already a favorite of locals and visitors alike.
“My wife and I love Midland because it’s right in the middle of the spectrum,” says Kring. “Beyond the just ease of getting around, I wholeheartedly believe Midland can be the next destination city, like Holland for example, because of the quality of people who live here and the number of attractions.
The Kring’s also love to travel and have found it is easy to get around with Midland as a home base. “We’ve been everywhere in the state, and we try to take a trip or two a year out in the country,” says Kring.
A familiar crowd gathers during the summer months at Larkin Beer Garden.
When they aren’t traveling, the duo have found Midland to have many more social gatherings and activities. “Aside from going to a Loons game, I thoroughly enjoy the Larkin Beer Garden in the summer,” says Kring. “We’re often down there on Thursday and Friday nights because it’s a great microcosm of young people and diversity. The summer programming that goes on in Midland such as festivals, Tunes by the Tridge are all really fun. I also think that the growing restaurant scene is going to take off and continue to evolve, which is exciting.”
Midland is home to a growing number of festivals and events.
And while Kring loves sports so much he made it part of his career, cuisine is also a fun hobby for the couple. “We thoroughly enjoy the farmer’s market, which we often walk the rail trail on weekends to grab lunch from the food trucks and shop.”
Coming from a small town and attending a large university, Kring said he would love to see overarching support for development and innovation.
“There can sometimes be opposition to change in this community. I think Bay City is a great example of a community that has embraced innovation in the last few years with bars and restaurants downtown. It’s important from a recruiting standpoint for large corporations in the area that Midland continues to evolve,” says Kring.
Catching a game with the Great Lakes Loons is favorite for all.
“The next generation of business leaders and philanthropists are innovators. Ultimately, we can’t stay stuck in the past. “
Greg and Tara Yankee
Originally from Michigan, Greg Yankee moved back with his wife Tara recently to serve as the Executive Director of Little Forks Conservancy in Midland. With robust experience in land conservation in Denver, coupled with an East Coast education, he returned to the Midwest last year and brings a fresh perspective.
Greg and Tara Yankee moved to Midland from Colorado recently.
After the lure of employment, what drew them was the feel of being up north. Beyond that, Midland Center for the Arts, Dow Gardens, the farmers market and the baseball stadium provided the accessibility to the lifestyle they had in Colorado.
“When we were looking to relocate. we looked at Detroit, a city that will always be close to my heart as my hometown, as well as Ann Arbor, but both had issues of affordability of homes and times spent in traffic that we couldn’t justify.”
“We were looking for a change and Midland fit the bill,” says Yankee. “We love the ability to get as involved as we want to, and to utilize as many community resources that we can. There are lots of ways to do it! For being a corporate town, and for people who claim social circles are around schools and churches, there are opportunities to engage the way you want to beyond these.”
“Interests do collide with passions, so I’m involved with the NextGen Council with Midland Center for the Arts. It’s been reorganized in an effort to rethink about programming to appeal to a younger age range,” says Yankee.
A new weekly favorite, the Circle Wine Garden offers a place to relax on Wednesday evenings.
Having lived on both sides of the country in both small and large cities, Yankee noted something he wanted to see take shape was finding more common ground with development projects.
“I think there is a need for greater understanding that an opinion that’s different from yours isn’t cause for alarm,” says Yankee. “I think the community could benefit from an intentional willingness to understand people can disagree and that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends, coworkers or neighbors. Diversity of opinions, backgrounds and interests is how Midland can attract the 21st Century professional.”
Young professionals consider Midland a great place to raise a family and there is also a clear need to spotlight places and communities that provide opportunity to connect on topics of diversity, culture and change. Embracing the future of Midland ties hand in hand with fresh perspectives rooted in values, innovation and growth.