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Can a $20 million ad campaign attract more Michigan residents? Whitmer hopes so

"You can in Michigan" ad. You can see a man work on a robot
The national campaign will focus on border states and 12 target markets, including New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. (Courtesy)
  • Officials launched a $20 million marketing campaign aimed at filling worker shortages and increasing population
  • The effort will target border states and 12 other market areas, including New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
  • It’s the latest attempt to reverse troubling trends as Michigan’s population gets older and young people move to other states

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Michigan officials on Tuesday launched a $20 million marketing campaign aimed at reversing the worst of the state’s population woes.

The national campaign, dubbed “You Can in Michigan,” will target border states and 12 market areas — including New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Austin and Raleigh-Durham — with print, digital and other commercial advertisements promoting opportunities in Michigan.


The effort also features an AI-powered website to help people find job openings in the state and compare costs of living.  


Michigan’s growth trajectory “depends on growing and attracting new talent to the state,” Whitmer told reporters during a virtual press conference Tuesday, adding that the campaign would show the nation what the state has to offer.

“You Can in Michigan” has a $20 million budget over the next two years. The ad campaign, which is expected to cost $3.5 million by the end of the year, highlights job possibilities in Detroit and Grand Rapids as well as Up North cities like Traverse City and Houghton. 

The campaign comes as Michigan faces a slew of population issues including worker shortages across the state in many key industries. As young people leave for other states, the population left behind has been getting older. 

The challenges make it more difficult to retain or attract residents, stymie business growth and will ultimately lead to diminished tax revenue if trends aren’t reversed, a Bridge investigation found

Michigan’s population has languished for decades, and ranks 49th in the nation in population growth since 1990, ahead of only West Virginia. The state now has just over 10 million people, down about 43,000 since 2020, U.S. Census Bureau numbers show

Michigan now ranks 10th in total population. It ranked 8th as recently as 2010, but was passed by Georgia and North Carolina. 

Multiple forecasts predict the state’s population will grow slowly but, with deaths exceeding births in the state, the state’s population will begin to decline in the mid-2040s.

Officials said Tuesday the new ads are complementary to other Michigan marketing efforts, such as the Pure Michigan brand for tourism and business promotion, as well as recent appeals to people in more conservative states highlighting Michigan’s abortion and LGBTQ rights protections. 


The national marketing plan is an effort to let people “know they can have it all in Michigan: a rewarding career, a fulfilling life, economic opportunity, fundamental freedoms — all with proximity to 3,000 miles of freshwater coastline,” said Michelle Grinnell, MEDC senior vice president of marketing & communications. 

The ad campaign is not the first effort by Michigan officials to reverse the trend: a 21-member “Growing Michigan Together Council” and adjacent workgroups are currently studying infrastructure, education, the economy and other factors that could draw more residents, and will be tasked with recommending a path forward in the coming months. 

Some Republicans and business groups have criticized the council, predicting its recommendations could give the governor cover to seek tax hikes if the council suggests a big boost in funding for road repairs, schools or other initiatives.

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