Posted by Jeff Cranson The Grand Rapids Press February 25, 2009 16:58PM
You have no doubt heard this before, but a national study concludes that Michigan's metro areas need to get much better at keeping and attracting young workers, retirees and well-educated immigrants
Our state lags far behind others in each of those categories, according to Land Policy Institute at Michigan State University.
What makes this hard to digest is the study's secondary findings that people increasingly decide where to live based more on quality-of-life factors than career opportunities.
For many of us, Michigan is synonymous with quality of life.
So why is a state still abundant with recreational opportunities -- Great Lakes, pristine beaches, forests, dozens of downhill and nordic skiing facilities -- not getting the message out?
Perhaps because Michigan only makes the national news when auto executives and labor leaders trek to Washington, D.C. seeking money for what people outside the Midwest see as an antiquated and undeserving industry.
Whether that perception is fair doesn't matter.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm and others rightly put the focus on the Michigan brain drain a few years back with the Cool Cities initiative. The concept is simple and should resonate across party lines: Maintaining a knowledge class begins with creating an environment of tolerance for lifestyle and ethnicity that encourages creativity, learning and business districts with all the things that make life fun.
"People who create the most jobs directly and indirectly are also those people moving to those places in the country that have the best amenities and quality of life," said Dr. Soji Adelaja, the report's lead author and director of the Land Policy Institute. "They are seeking places first, not jobs first."
But the jobs can also be part of the draw. That point came across today In a meeting with Press editors, Van Andel Institute Chairman and CEO David Van Andel, and Jeffrey Trent, the institute's new director.
With great clarity, both men made the point that theirs and other life-science enterprises will create the kinds of jobs that help transform the state's economy. Van Andel said the slumping economy can actually work in the VAI's favor because of the talent that is available.
He said he is "bullish" on the institute's future.
And those jobs would go to exactly the type of people discussed in the study. Improving the cities where those facilities are located can only help.
Adelja, the study's author, concludes that economic development types need a new model, one that focuses less on tax incentives and more on increasing our population of "knowledge workers" who "look for interesting places to live, move there and enable economic activity to follow them, including job creation for themselves."
Who can argue with that?