In Part One of our series Stay or Go, we looked at how Michigan stacks fares in attracting and retaining talented young people. But, as we noted, people choose cities, not states. In this second installment, we take a closer look at Lansing and its reputation.
Michigan Cities- The Future
|Michigan – Statewide||4,721,990||5,036,510||314,520||6.7|
|Ann Arbor Area||264,620||292,570||27,950||10.6|
|Battle Creek Area||102,550||107,835||5,285||5.2|
|Benton Harbor Area||116,380||120,105||3,725||3.2|
|East Central Michigan||50,370||53,175||2,805||5.6|
|Grand Rapids Area||548,450||599,850||51,400||9.4|
|Northeast Lower Peninsula||57,570||60,795||3,225||5.6|
|Northwest Lower Peninsula||145,840||160,250||14,410||9.9|
|West Central Michigan||53,175||56,705||3,530||6.6|
Ann Arbor is predicted to grow 10.6%, the Traverse City area 9.9% and Grand Rapids 9.4%.
So where’s Lansing? At 6.4%, we’re tied with Detroit, which is not a good place to be.
Incentives aren’t enough
At the state level, Michigan needs to get serious about persuading young people to stay. We need a basket full of direct incentives: Give-backs on tuition if you work in Michigan for two years (since it’s harder to leave once you put down roots). First-time home buyer tax credits. We could also restructure our economic development incentives to give entrepreneurial young people more access to capital to start small businesses.
The young people who stay a few years often stay longer because they learn to love Michigan. On the Generation Y Michigan website, Kate Tykocki writes about why she’s glad she stayed – a good job, good pay, a “deep network of friends,” an affordable home in which she is building equity, her dog and a chance to perform where the competition isn’t so fierce you never get a chance. Tyrocki writes that many of her friends who reached for the brass ring elsewhere now find themselves mired in debt, and some are “boomeranging” back to Michigan.
But an honest appraisal of Lansing’s ability to attract returning professionals requires facing facts. Compared to Ann Arbor and Traverse City, we’re dumpy. Over the decades, scores of talented young people who went to school in Ann Arbor have told me they would do anything to stay. In Lansing, the truly talented kids instead frequently talk about their plans to escape.
Lansing and Ann Arbor have quite a bit in common. Both are roughly the same size – the 2006 census estimate shows Ann Arbor with 113,206 residents compared to Lansing’s 114,276. Both cities are home to a tier one research university. And Lansing has the added benefit of being the state capital.
Yet if I were looking to locate a high-tech business that every city wants to attract, tax breaks being equal, I would choose Ann Arbor over Lansing. Lots of talented, highly educated folks to choose from for new employees. The synergy that comes from interacting with creative people. A vibrant culture to satisfy my educated workforce.
A major reason that Ann Arbor attracts new high-tech businesses is because they already have them – a virtuous cycle that makes sustained progress easier to achieve. As we see when Arby’s and Taco Bell move in next to MacDonalds, everyone’s business goes up because of the synergy.
As the chart below shows, Lansing has a shockingly smaller percentage of its population in that most productive age group. And most disturbing of all, back in 2000 Ann Arbor had three times as many college-educated folks living in the city as Lansing does, and there is reason to worry the disparity is growing, not shrinking.
|City||Under 18||Over 65||*High-School Diploma||*Bachelor’s Degree|
*Percent of persons age 25+ in 2000
NEXT INSTALLMENT: On Monday, we will begin to explore what it will take to make Lansing the great place it has the potential to become.
Our campus correspondent Jonah Magar captures stories of young people on campus talking about their future