Antrim County Profile

The Antrim County profile gives an overview of what life is like in this county and how you and your lifestyle can fit in.

Antrim County offers up one of Michigan’s most distinctive and alluring pieces of geography, an enchanting mix of Great Lake shoreline (24 miles’ worth), turquoise inland lakes, hardwood hills, rolling farm meadows and winding valleys. For people who choose to live here, that natural beauty is forever a part of their days and is a rich backdrop to their lives.

The changing landscape makes varied settings for the towns of Antrim, a half-dozen villages that range in size from small to smaller. The county’s largest village, Elk Rapids, (population 1,642 at 2010 census) rises at the mouth of the Elk River, where it empties into East Grand Traverse Bay, a Lake Michigan bay that is one of the largest and cleanest freshwater bays on Earth. Like Antrim County in general, Elk Rapids’ pace ebbs and flows with tourist seasons, bustling in summer as boaters fill the 263 boat slips available in the town’s three harbors and as resorters fill hundreds of nearby cottages. The Victorian-era downtown retains its period authenticity and is brought current with such offerings as contemporary dining at Siren Hall and a smart wine selection at Village Wine Shop.

Bellaire, Antrim’s second largest town, with population just over a thousand, experiences more year-round activity thanks in part to its location near Shanty Creek Resorts, a golf and ski resort that is one of Michigan’s premier destinations and the county’s largest employer. Bellaire is also home to a destination microbrewery, Short’s Brewing. Since opening in 2004, Short’s has become the state’s third largest brewery with more than 120 employees, many of whom work in the company’s bottling plant in Elk Rapids.

Antrim’s other small towns likewise share beautiful settings. For example, tiny Alden, year-round population just 125, is perched on the shore of the renowned summertime destination Torch Lake (which shared a bit of national fame as part of Kid Rock’s song “All Summer Long,” and is where filmmaker Michael Moore makes his home). Stretching 19 miles long and glowing with a turquoise hue thanks to a lime marl lake bottom, Torch is Michigan’s second-largest inland lake.

The Antrim towns of Elk Rapids, Alden, Bellaire, Central Lake and Ellsworth are situated along a string of connected lakes and rivers called the Chain of Lakes, which runs 75 miles long, provides some of the state’s finest fishing and includes some of the state’s most renowned vacation lakes.

Video of Village of Bellaire.

Antrim’s largest employers cover surprisingly diverse businesses. In addition to Shanty Creek Resorts with roughly 400 employees, the county is home to Great Lakes Packing, a cherry processing business with 300 employees, and Central Lake Armor Express, a body armor manufacturer with 165 employees, and Anchor Lamina, a manufacturing and electroplating factory.

As one might expect in a resort area, the largest percentage of jobs falls into the service category, with 54 percent, but the remaining 46 percent is split among several sectors. Other than service sector jobs, the largest sectors are manufacturing with 14.3 percent of jobs, retail with 12.5 percent and construction, with 9.5 percent. Agriculture and other make up 5.3 percent of Antrim County jobs.

Seven separate school districts operate in Antrim County, a reflection of the county residents’ appreciation of small towns and devotion to local identity. The districts’ sizes range from Alba Public Schools with just 164 students, to Elk Rapids, the county’s largest district. Elk Rapids has nearly 1,400 K–12 students and offers diplomas through the International Baccalaureate program.

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