Priceline expansion propels policy questions

Priceline plans to add more than 500 jobs to its call center in Wyoming in the Grand Rapids area. More jobs equal good news in Michigan, of course. But an online discussion shared with us between Milt Rohwer of the Frey Foundation and Birgit Klohs of The Right Place, Inc., may provide more illumination on the challenges Michigan has in improving its circumstances.

Upon hearing the news, Milt wrote Birgit, " If I understand correctly, part of the reason for your success here was the immigrant population of (Grand Rapids) and the large number of languages spoken. If that is true, this story may be a credible way to overcome our reputation as a parochial backwater ..."

Birgit responded, "When (Priceline) made the location decision almost three years ago, they considered two key demographics: number of college students in the immediate westMichiganarea (72,000 at that time) and the number of languages spoken (49 at that time). So yes, we do have a lot more diversity than we think, but it’s not always visible."

Former State Rep. Steve Tobocman and others are pushing the concept that greater immigration will help revive the city of Detroit and SE Michigan. Gov. Rick Snyder is a public advocate of a "more immigrants = stronger Michigan" strategy. How should that play out in state policy, or are Snyder, Tobocman et. al off the mark entirely?

As for college students, Michigan knows it will have fewer teens coming out of its high schools in coming years. After a peak of about 1.75 million in 2003, enrollment in K-12 schools is projected to decline by 15 percent (more than 250,000 students) by 2017. If firms are on the lookout for college grads or college students, what does this demographic trend portend forMichigan? What, if anything, can/should state leaders do about it?

Lots of questions for the folks at the State Capitol.

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