Benzie County
Community Information

About Benzie County

Benzie County is the smallest geographic county in Michigan, with 316 square miles and one stoplight. The mean commute to work time between 2015-2019 was 25.9 minutes for residents sixteen years or older, according to the 2020 US Census. Over 36% of Benzie County is publicly owned land, encompasses Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, and has a population of 17,970.

After the logging boom in the early 1900s, seasonal industries began to gain traction. Agriculture and tourism became the top two industries in the county which had a ripple effect on Benzie County’s economy as a whole, specifically impacting seasonal housing and workforce development within the community. In 2014, the Northwest Michigan Seasonal Home Population Analysis found that the monthly home occupancy rate in Benzie County fluctuates as much as 8% occupancy in January and 64% occupancy in June through August. Benzie County has six villages and one city, Frankfort, within its geographic boundaries. The scope of work falls within the geographic boundaries of Benzie County and includes a diverse range of rural residents from the Crystal Downs Country Club to the residents of Thompsonville.

Benzie County and the Northwest Michigan region have been steadily working towards better understanding the interconnected complexities of addressing child care challenges within the community. Three key studies across 2018, 2019, and 2021 highlight key challenges within the community: provider decline and scarcity, accessibility and affordability, and the multifaceted economic vulnerabilities of rural communities.