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Whitmer: to achieve parity, northern Michigan needs broadband and population growth

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Sen. Gary Peters and other northern Michigan lawmakers visited Traverse City on Friday for a policy conference. They joined business leaders to talk about major issues impacting the region including affordable childcare, widespread high-speed internet and more housing.

Gov. Whitmer said for northern Michigan’s rural communities to grow, they need to be able to attract more talent to the area and support the people who want to work here, but find it difficult because of limited housing and high childcare costs. She said the new state offices of rural development and high speed internet will help bring more attention to these issues.

“We’ve got [an] incredible quality of life. We’ve got a lower cost of living than you can find in many other places,” Whitmer said. “If you’re connected [to the internet], you can find a great opportunity here in Michigan.”

Sen. Peters said the region is getting closer to solving the broadband challenge. He said the FCC is developing new broadband maps, which will more accurately show which areas aren’t connected.

“With new maps coming on board we’ll be able to get that money to the places that need it the most as soon as possible,” he said. “We’re going to find out exactly who has broadband and who doesn’t.”

The event was hosted by the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance, made up of chambers of commerce and economic development groups, which advocates for rural business policy.

Taylor Wizner covers heath, tourism and other news for Interlochen Public Radio.