Young talent continues to flee Michigan

It's not as if Sarah Noffze dislikes Michigan.

After all, she grew up in suburban Detroit, went to Michigan State University and served on the homecoming court. She remains loyal to her beloved Sparty.

But as she neared graduation in 2014, the marketing major set her sights on a job elsewhere.

“My original goal was to move someplace warmer. I was thinking maybe California,” recalled Noffze, 22.

But in early 2015, Noffze landed a job at Hormel Foods in Minneapolis, where she is now a regional retail sales manager. She gets the irony.

“Hormel ended up offering me a full-time job,” she said. “I couldn't turn down the offer.”

And now? She doesn't mind the cold – while growing to appreciate the array of diversions that Minneapolis offers.

“There's always lots of things to do ‒ beer fests, a Shania Twain concert, Christmas parades. There's lots of young people living here, which is very attractive to me. There's actually lots of people from Michigan and Michigan State here.”

As Noffze said, she has plenty of company.

According to the U.S. Census, Michigan had a net domestic migration loss of 38,911 people in the one-year period from July 2014 to July 2015. Translation: That's how many more people left for other states than moved in. That’s the sixth highest population loss in the nation.

And just as notably, Michigan continues to lose a particularly valuable human resource: Young people with college degrees.

Census figures show that Michigan had an estimated net migration loss of 0.7 percent of those age 22-to-34 with a bachelor's degree or higher.

While that’s less of a percentage loss than previous years, it extends a troubling pattern of young, educated people leaving the state in greater numbers than those coming to Michigan.

“We are still seeing young people, especially people from elite universities, going elsewhere,” said demographic expert Kurt Metzger, director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit, a low-profit limited liability research organization.

“They have so many more options. We are just not capturing those people,” said Metzger, now mayor of Pleasant Ridge, which borders Detroit.

Loss of talent, loss of clout

The overall exodus has been in play for more than a decade, a drain that reflects the economic struggles of a Rust Belt state and results in a continued loss of national political clout. Since 2001, more than 700,000 more people have left Michigan than have moved in, even as overall population in the state has begun to slowly rise.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm pointed to the issue in 2003, when she launched her “Cool Cities” initiative, which channeled state funds to local governments for projects to make their cities attractive to young knowledge workers. The amounts were modest – in its first year, 2004 – the state awarded $1.9 million in state funds for 19 projects.

Dave Murray, spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder, said Snyder is well aware what’s at stake.

“One of the things that inspired the governor to run was that his children were approaching college age and he – like most parents – wanted them to be able to find good jobs and remain in Michigan after graduation,” Murray said in an email.

Murray noted there are more than 80,000 jobs posted on the state’s employment site, figures that the governor’s office has cited for years.

“One of the governor’s priorities is to increase the collaboration between businesses, higher education and K-12 districts so students can graduate with in-demand skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Our challenge is to make sure our college graduates have the skills to fill those jobs and stay here in Michigan.”

Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, the state's business roundtable, called the ongoing loss of young professional talent a “serious demographic crisis that threatens economic growth as our workforce ages and population growth is stagnant.”

In a statement, he added: “We believe the best long-term solution is to grow more good jobs in growth industries and to boost college enrollments. There is no better tool than good-paying jobs in growing industries for attracting people to come here for work and attracting more students to go to school here in Michigan.”

Metzger, the demographer, said population projections show Michigan will lose one more congressional seat in 2020, which would leave it with 13. The state had 19 in 1970 – and has lost at least one seat every decade since then. Metzger sees nothing on the horizon to reverse that trend.

“The way the (national) population continues to grow in the South and Southwest, there's no likelihood we could make up the numbers between now and 2020.”

Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, a Lansing political newsletter, said the loss of another congressional seat would be one more reminder how this once-mighty manufacturing state has fallen.

“It shows that our state continues to struggle, even as we've clawed our way out of a decade-long recession,” Demas said. “We're still not retaining and attracting people, which is a fault line in Michigan's economic growth.

“The second problem is that we'd probably lose clout in Washington...The auto bailout of 2008 probably wouldn't have happened if the strong Michigan delegation hadn't flexed its muscles.”

Heading South and West

Even as more people left than entered Michigan from other states, Michigan's overall population nudged up in 2015, to 9,922,576 – a .06 percent rise.

That's because Michigan had more births than deaths and 24,000 in international migration – leaving it with a net population gain of 6,270. That's better than losing people, but ranks just 44th in the nation in percentage growth. It is less than a tenth of the U.S. average rise of .73 percent, a disparity that is expected to continue – hence the loss of another congressional seat.

It's worth noting that Michigan's overall population has now grown, if slightly, for four straight years, after seven consecutive years of losses. But it's also true the 2015 total still stands below the 2000 state population of 9,952,450.

If it's any consolation, Michigan has ample company in the Midwest and Northeast.

The 12-state Midwest, which includes North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, lost nearly 240,000 people to domestic migration from 2014 to 2015, while the Northeast lost about 325,000.

New York led the nation in domestic migration loss from 2014 to 2015, with about 157,000, with Illinois second at 105,000.

The biggest winners: Florida, which gained just over 200,000 in domestic migration in that year; and Texas, which gained about 170,000, underscoring gains across the South and West.

Metzger said the migration losses in Michigan are surely linked to the plunge in manufacturing jobs over the first decade this century, a steeper fall than in any other state. According to Michigan's Department of Technology, Management & Budget, Michigan shed more than 430,000 manufacturing jobs from 1999 to 2009, tumbling from nearly 900,000 jobs in 1999 to 463,100 in 2009. The state lost more than 700,000 jobs of all types during that time.

In 2008 and 2009, in the depth of the Great Recession, Michigan lost a net of nearly 200,000 people to other states.

Finding reasons to stay

Though the economy has since revived – with an unemployment rate of 5.1 percent in November 2015 compared with nearly 12 percent five years ago – Metzger said Michigan continues to lose out to regions and cities that young professionals find more enticing places to live.

“You have places like Austin, Houston, Dallas, places with very dynamic economies,” Metzger said. “Cities like Denver and Salt Lake City are investing in regional transit. These cities and regions are getting the importance of investing in infrastructure. Millennials want bike lanes and they want mass transit, all these things we keep hearing from millennials.”

Lou Glazer, president and co-founder of Michigan Future Inc., a nonprofit Ann Arbor-based economic research organization, said Michigan can ill afford to lose this race for young, well-educated professionals. He noted that Michigan ranks 35th in per capita income and 34th in the portion of adults with a college degree.

“We are now in a knowledge-driven economy,” Glazer said. “The common characteristic, except for a few driven by high energy prices, of prosperous states is a high proportion of adults with a four-year degree or more. Young talent particularly are concentrating in vibrant central cities.”

He added: “Michigan needs to have big cities, Detroit and Grand Rapids mainly, that provide quality basic services and amenities; terrific alternatives to driving; density; and being welcoming to all. Combine those features with an entrepreneurial culture and you have a place where talent – from across the planet – wants to live and work.”

On the knowledge front, Michigan has a ways to go. Of 171 cities with over 150,000 population, Detroit ranked 159th in percentage of those 25 to 34 with a bachelor's degree in 2013. Grand Rapids fared better, at 53rd.

In Grand Rapids in 2013, just over 40 percent of those age 25 to 34 had a bachelor's degree. Just 15.9 percent in that age group had a college degree in Detroit. By comparison, Minneapolis ranked 17th in the nation at 56 percent, while nearly 71 percent in that age group in San Francisco had college degrees.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, analysts attribute some flight from Rust Belt cities to an improving economy, which brings with it rising home values. That allowed homeowners who had been frozen in place because their houses were “underwater” – worth less than their mortgage – to sell, and move to warmer climes. In Michigan, nearly 40 percent of mortgages in 2010 were underwater, compared with about 20 percent today.

That wasn't an issue for former Kentwood resident Charlie Scarborough. Scarborough and his wife, Crissy, pulled up stakes in Michigan for one simple reason: He found a better job with better pay in Wisconsin.

“We really liked it in West Michigan,” said Scarborough, 55, who lived in Michigan 21 years before moving in 2015 to a small Wisconsin community south of Green Bay.

He is now a regional business director for Mercury Marine, a manufacturer of marine engines, a step up in pay and responsibility from his former job as supply chain manager for Atwood Marine near Grand Rapids.

Scarborough recalled that his former Michigan employer shrunk to half its size during the Great Recession, years he described as a “pretty scary time.”

And though Atwood has since rebounded, and his position was secure, Scarborough said the opportunity in Wisconsin was too enticing to ignore.

“It was a hard decision to leave. But this was too big and too good a career move to pass up.”

Parker Murasky, 23, is a 2014 graduate of Michigan State University. With a degree in construction management, the Rochester native said goodbye to Michigan that year to take a job with an engineering firm in Vail, Colo.

A few months later, he landed a job as a construction safety engineer with a firm in San Diego. With an apartment about a mile from the Pacific Ocean, he's taken up sailing and surfing. He laughs at the locals who bundle up when the temperature is in the 60s, as if that qualifies as cold weather.

Murasky said he might consider moving back to Michigan some day. But for now, life feels alright in California.

“Michigan is a good place to raise a family so maybe I would move back for that,” he said. “But for the time being, I really enjoy being some place different.”

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Tue, 01/19/2016 - 9:50am
After all Bridge's past columns, you mean it's not diversity, liberal attitudes, public transportation, beer friendly, free college, massive public spending and it all boils down to that our young people move to where they are offered the best jobs????
David Waymire
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 10:01am
Matt, the comments by the young lady at the start of the story, Metzger and Glazer clearly say that is it about being welcoming to all, having public transit, and the kinds of establishments (beer or not) and bike friendly/walkable areas that young people want to live near. Young talent can go where ever it wants and find good jobs. What it cannot find in Michigan today, (with the possible exception of Grand Rapids, which just passed major millages for mass transit and has benefited from millions of dollars in state support to built major arenas and museums in the last 20 years, along with more millions to support the movement of GVSU operations toward downtown) is a cool city that really works. And in Grand Rapids, the pay for jobs college grads fill is among the lowest of any major city in the nation, data shows.
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 10:56am
David I read it over again and I think you're reading into it what isn't there. The reason these folks give for leaving is for the best, highest prospect job, nothing else is really pointed to. Obviously family and avocations play a role in our choice of where we all live. I'd like to move to Montana, my wife and career dictate otherwise! and, since you brought it up I seriously question your assessment of the Grand Rapids mass transit bus line, the new park and ride lots sit there 25% full (I drive past them every day) and the buses run back and forth similarly full. Pretty typical for city buses. The citizens were conned so that GVSU wouldn't have to run busses between their campi , then these riders were counted as increased ridership.
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 5:59pm
You missed the point. There are lots of jobs here. Young people are leaving because we don't have a good infrastructure (roads, schools,social contract) and lifestyle amenities. We need to seriously buff up our public services and develop our outdoor recreational assets.
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 11:01am
None of the people interviewed here even mentioned roads and infrastructure...???, I understand you may want this priority but that doesn't make it everyone else's. Judging by the failure of prop A seems people really aren't all that worried about it.
Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:49pm
"Judging by the failure of prop A seems people really aren’t all that worried about it." You may have felt that way, but some of us felt the tax imposed had no relationship to the users of roads and was simply another regressive tax on the middle and lower class.
Matt Too
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 10:05am
Actually, this story ignores the elephant in the room -- Michigan's benighted, fundamentalist social issue politics. Whatever their economic views, most young people are quite liberal on social issues these days. And when your state goes all the way to the Supreme Court to try to block gay marriage, and continues to ruin the lives of medical marijuana providers for having the temerity to help cancer patients feel better, that's not a state young people will want to stay in. Michissippi indeed.
David Richey
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 10:21am
Very true and on the mark...
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 10:38am
Agreed, totally!
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 3:50pm
I could not possibly agree more.
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 6:03am
@ Matt Too I couldn't agree more, about time the old stodgy folks just gave in, and go with the flow. smh
Tony Wagoner
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 10:24pm
Exactly right. This state is too socially backwards to keep young relatively progressive young people with any ambition.
Tue, 12/27/2016 - 7:39pm

Right on the money! As a Michigan parent of a recent Brown University graduate and a Wellesley College senior, this message is exactly what I am hearing. Before you wonder, why did they go out of state for college? For a low income family, it was the cheapest option for our highly motivated students.

Tue, 01/19/2016 - 10:18am
As a retired professor of Aero Eng at UM where I spent 40 years I always did exit interviews for my students to learn of their future. 99.99% were leaving Michigan because of what they determined to be a rotten environment....crime, corruption, condescending attitude, a detached and uncaring government, nasty police, etc. Now the parents too are leaving because the kids will not come home for vacations. Look at the national headlines about Detroit schools, Flint water, corrupt politicians and judges (read Judicial Deceit, Betty Weaver), shady business deals, the Governor, ChiCom students at the universities, etc. Michigan is North America's Somalia! This is NOT going to change until the corrupt party bosses in both parties are replaced by concerned capable citizens and qualified, non thieving candidates hold public office. The word is out that Michigan IS the turn around arrive, look around, and leave.
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 3:47pm
Very well said Professor.
Tue, 07/05/2016 - 12:43pm
Well said, Professor. The social, environmental, and political climates in this state, as in much of the rest of the country, have changed dramatically in the last several decades! When the most pressing issue in too many of our legislator's minds is where we can go to the bathroom, while our roads crumble, our wateri system fall apart around us and poison not only us, but our children, and every little whisp of wind takes out our power, we have fundamentally serious problems. We've developed, by design, a culture of utter ignorance and intolerance for education, and any scientific endeavor, and we have a governor and legislature who's only goal is to enrich their corporate handlers, and then we scratch our head and wonder why! I am recently retired, and my children are here, both gainfully employed; otherwise I would have long ago left the state myself, even after having lived here 63 of my 69 years.
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 10:19am
Sure, there are "more than 80,000 jobs posted on the state’s employment site"...and most of them want someone with an associates or a bachelors. BUT...they pay $13/hr. Do you think Sarah, fresh out of college, who gets hired at Hormel and is now a regional retail sales manager is making $20-30k a year? HA! If Michigan wants to keep their college educated citizens, they need to pay wages that are competitive with the other states. $40/50/60k starting wages. Of course, you need thriving businesses to be able to pay those wages. Yes, it's true that Michigan is beautiful, and many of us have family bonds that keep us here, but places like Minnesota are also beautiful...and when you are making a livable wage you can easily buy a plane ticket back home for the holidays. I myself traded my $70k/yr position in another state for a $35k/yr position in the same field. But alas, there are no good opportunities in most of Michigan (perhaps some in larger cities, but honestly, who wants to live in Flint right now?!), so those of us who aren't "fleeing the state with our degrees" instead try to enjoy the great outdoors and tell ourselves the trade off is worth it. Because honestly, who needs access to cheap public transportation, liberal attitudes, and massive public spending when you can have 40 minute icy drives to work and lead in your water. Small parts of Michigan are getting it right. Detroit is coming back, as well as some of the suburbs (with trendy new restaurants, a wide array of night life, and jobs that keep degree-holders around). But other areas of Michigan are not so lucky, such as northern Michigan. Take the Petoskey/Harbor Springs area for example...sure, new restaurants and brewpubs are popping up, but with a severe lack of quality full-time/year-round employment, it will remain a lovely place to visit, for wealthy summer tourists. Once thriving cities are now ghost towns, with abandoned malls and Dollar General stores galore, because that's all anyone can afford. Ah, Pure Michigan.
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 2:22pm
I could not agree more. A recent posting for MASTER-degreed librarian is paying $15.20 an hour. $15 an hour is the wage for fast food workers in New York City.
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 9:31pm
I 100% agree with you. I just recently graduated from MSU also, Sarah and I were actually in the same program freshman year. I searched up and down for jobs in Michigan. As much as I wanted to "explore the world" and move away, when the time came close to graduation I looked closer to home (Detroit.) What I found out is that yes there are jobs available but the pay is awful. For example, Quicken Loans is one of the largest employers in Detroit, I've interviewed with them multiple times for multiple positions. Highest salary they offered me was $11/h. I have three internships under my belt that all paid well beyond that amount. Heck, even my on campus job Junior year paid more than that. With that being said I ended up accepting a job in Texas that is paying me a bit over $60k a year. During my job search I found out that the only jobs in Michigan (within the business field) for recent college grads with decent pay were Big 4 accounting firms and the few open positions with the automakers. Everything else is low pay. I hope one day to return to Michigan
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 10:11am
Vigorously nodding my head here. My husband took a 42% pay cut to move home. We thought we could make it on less because our mortgage is much smaller, but the taxes, insurance and utilities are as much or more than what we were paying out west. Ouch.
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 10:23am
Well, after watching the protests in Ann Arbor about the Flint water situation, why would any one want to work or have a business in Flint. or Michigan for that matter. Bad PR for Michigan is being spread by the Democratic party hacks.
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 10:24am
These protesters are union hacks from the MEA, UAW, etc. It is about benefits...end of story. Not about the kids.
David Waymire
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 9:58am
Small businesses like bars and restaurants are suffering in Flint because they cannot use the water for potable purposes. And the bottom line is that the major tax cuts our state has pushed through since 1999 have left cities unable to provide basic services, which mean they cannot attract young people, which means businesses suffer. The tax cut philosophy is a proven failure...yet our Legislature is preparing to double down with additional tax cuts.
Mon, 02/01/2016 - 7:40pm
Wow. Union Hacks? Trying to protect kids from buildings that have ceilings falling in isn't done by union hacks. People flee Michigan because the wages, since the right took over our state are so low people can't live on them. Until the Right-wing clown car moves out of state and the Koch brothers stop piling their coal debris on our river shores and the manufacturers stop dumping lead in the rivers, PureMichigan is Pure bullshit.
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 4:56pm
Nice try Sue. I take it you just want the folks in Flint to die? No? Then that liar Snyder should be attacked by everyone not just Dems. Besides educated women do not vote for repubs. You must be old. Didn't you notice that young folks are socially liberal? The teabagging nut jobs in Lansing are the ones screwing it up Sue. Wake up.
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 10:49am
I've said it before yes, the weather IS a big elephant in the room. But also as large are wages and good jobs. Son#1 MTU grad (engineering) in S Fla. Won't come back. Son#2 MTU too, has one foot out the door. Likely, we will follow after mother in law passes. Sad, my family has been here for over 300 years...
Wed, 07/06/2016 - 2:12pm
Weather may be an elephant in the room...or not. Look how many young talented people move to Colorado for the skiing and other winter sports. Our few "cool cities" (Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids) are, alas, not located near mountains, or on lakeshores for that matter. Cities along West Michigan's shore could be a magnet for young professionals who love water sports, but instead there's social conservatism galore (Saugatuck excluded). What sharp young college graduate would want to move to Holland or Muskegon?
David Chait
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 11:00am
38,911 is not 2.9% of the population of Michigan
David Zeman
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 12:52pm
David, Thanks for the heads up; that particular sentence was indeed inaccurate, based on a misreading of a Census chart, and has been removed. Appreciate your sharp eye. David Zeman Editor Bridge
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 11:05am
From experience as a parent of a recent college grad, I think the idea of staying in Michigan is gone long before they graduate college, I would even say before graduating high school. Although my daughter is currently working in Michigan, her first job after graduating was out of state and the company she now works for is world-wide giving her numerous possibilities in the future. She only came back to Michigan be closer to her fiancé, who is currently looking out of the state for a new job. They are both very proud of being from Michigan. They're happy to wear it, put it on their cars, even in the décor of their apartment. They both grew up seeing and doing and experiencing all that Michigan has to offer, and now they're looking for something different. Maybe companies in Michigan need to try something different to recruit from out of state more and pull in the graduates looking for that same type of change
Barry Visel
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 11:08am
10 or 12 years ago I read a study published by a chamber of commerce bemoaning the exodus of highly educated young people. Business leaders indicated a lack of good recruits and jobs remaining open as a result. The city?...Boston, MA. I don't think anybody has the answers. I do think young folks like the excitement of moving around (as examples in the article point out). Maybe we should focus on attracting young families, not singles?
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 11:09am
To retain college grads, Michigan will need to pay far more attention to its basic infrastructure. It's not just roads (though that's a start), it's the social infrastructure, the ability of communities to act, the transparency of our government. Our politics is no great shake either: rancorous, partisan, prone to last-minute late-at-night deals. When we strip mine the basic goods of civic life, should we wonder that young people find other places more appealing? Perhaps the better strategic question is not to ask how do we keep young people here, but rather, how do we make a place they want to come back to? A place they can invest in?
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 12:45pm
J Reed
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 11:09am
I found a lot of the comments above had valid comments. As a mom of 4 kids 21-26 all in college our college graduate., these are the things that they are facing. One is the cost of college in Michigan. They find it hard in Michigan to find the jobs that will pay for the college loans. They are also finding opportunities very limiting in Michigan. They feel they can get a job where they can progress and actually pay to live other places. Yes, the weather. As they get older they like the cold and playing in the snow less. Lastly, the whole attitude in Michigan. We have become a poverty state in most corners of Michigan. Those who are thinking forward are drowning in the ocean of those that have stayed that are looking more towards living with help from the system than owning a home and working a job. Truth is that those that have resources and skills are the ones that are leaving in mass. Those that have none are the ones that don't have the means to leave. We also have a governor who seems to believe that foreigners are the ones to save Michigan rather than our own youth.
Martha T
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 11:20am
My two children and their spouses took their 10 degrees and found work elsewhere. They lived in NYC, Chicago, Philadelphia, and St. Louis (all cities with excellent public transportation) before buying homes and having babies in the Seattle and DC metro areas. Given their specialized graduate educations, it's unlikely they'd find appropriate jobs here, but the drumbeat of horrible news from our state makes them feel as if they escaped before the deluge. I don't expect them back. So much has been destroyed by years of "governance" by those who do not believe in the common good. I'm losing hope that it is even possible to rescue Flint, Detroit PS, or public schools in general. Who would want to teach here now, after decades of disinvestment and teacher-scapegoating? Cities slide into financial disaster as their resources are constrained even in recovery. An entire generation has either been denied the opportunity for higher education or saddled with overwhelming debt. Our infrastructure crumbles as the legislature fiddles with stupid new micromanagement schemes. With a clueless and arrogant legislature insulated by gerrymandering, emergency managers despite the people's veto, referendum-proof laws, and political gag orders for school districts, library boards, and local governments, Democracy has died in Michigan. I think I'll join my kids elsewhere.
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 12:46pm
I agree! Our state is full of last minute laws passed without discussion, a governor who says "I am not planning on passing ___", then passes a restrictive law. My daughter has no desire to live here when she graduated from college, and I have discouraged her from entering teaching although I've been a teacher for 32 years. When I retire, I plan on taking my retirement dollars elsewhere. It's embarrassing to live in a state that poisons its own citizens.
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 12:47pm
"So much has been destroyed by years of “governance” by those who do not believe in the common good." ....well said
Martha M
Sat, 01/23/2016 - 9:32am
I agree completely.
Vaughn Smith
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 11:27am
My single 33 year old Western Michigan grad RN son plans on leaving Michigan. My 29 year old daughter, Michigan State grad in Finance is staying in Michigan with her family if job situation allows.
Steve Sawyer
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 11:32am
I don't think the political leadership in our state are interested in attracting millennials. Millennials only contribute to the shifting demographics against which our state's political leadership continues to fight (or fear). Better to see them off, leaving the bitter, angry, old, white, scared constituency with whom they are comfortable. Besides, the features that are cited here and elsewhere that make other areas attractive require public investment in spaces, services and amenities, which is definitely NOT a component of the toolbox carried around by Michigan's political leaders. Note that they couldn't even bring themselves to make the investment to fix our roads, let alone invest in public transportation or greenspaces. Private investment can only build on a foundation of public investment, and the pathological tax aversion means that no foundation gets built, and no private investment follows. Tax cuts may get the attention of the corporate bean-counters, but when HR realizes that they can't staff new facilities built in Michigan, the deal gets undone...
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 12:51pm
I just had this conversation over the weekend with a young friend who's visiting from California doing is residency in OB/GYN. He's tremendously bright, UM Med. School, deeply engaged in women's health issues and has a bright future. But it won't be here. He sees no reason to come back, except maybe to Ann Arbor. Why would he - he's gay, and Michigan has become especially unwelcoming - cutting benefits, fighting gay marriage, firing gay teachers. And he wants to provide healthcare to low-income women - which is under the gun budget-wise and policy wise here. He's exactly the kind of person Michigan needs, but between fundamentalist exclusion, a legislature that tanking the state the climate is hardly one in which a person of his calibre could thrive. So sad...and until there is fundamental change here, it'll remain the same pushing the brightest out.
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 2:35pm
Florida had a population gain last year of about 360,000 and is forecast to have an annual gain in the neighborhood of 400,000 per year by 2020. I will be among them as there is no state income tax and the sales tax is equivalent to Michigan. The property tax is a lot less than Michigan, the utility bills are a lot less, and there don't seem to be many unions. The governor and the legislature are solidly Republican. What more to ask for!
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 2:37pm
Does anyone here really care about Michigan's future and the future of the people that live here? If you cared rather just wanting to spout old political position's on other issue you would be asking what do we need to change. The reality is that it starts with jobs, what are the jobs the young need, who will provide those jobs, why should those employers be in Michigan, how do we in Michigan help them to locate here or stay here or start up here, what are other places doing to encourage the employers to go there, what can we do to make this a good place for jobs? I can hear all the commenters on this article justifying why they are right and don't worry about jobs. In truth all of you political issues will be resolve by the people, and the people that are financially successful are the ones most open to change, because their success is based on change and on the future not the past. I worked in such a town many years ago, and I suspect that town is just as successful today. It is a Michigan town. Its off by itself so it is a good test of how jobs can draw in good people from everywhere and they make a good place to live.
Jarred Campbell
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 5:02pm
As a native Michigander I would love to some day move back home from Colorado. However that day will be far from now or may never happen. The truth behind this reasoning is the lack of jobs that can compete with my current pay. Sure I may spend 300k on a home in the Denver metro area vs a house on a lake in a beautiful part of Michigan. However if I were still in Michigan I wouldn't be able to afford a 300k home. The chances of my career leading me back to state that I love and am proud to say I grew up in are slim. A large portion of new jobs that my generation are flocking to are on the technology side. With the lack of those fields in Michigan, us outdoorsman "geeks" will have to find success outside of the mitten. Bring technology industries to the mitten and I'd move home in a heartbeat.
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 6:17pm
I am glad to see the issue of population growth get this attention. Population increase stimulates economic growth. And economic growth attracts migrants. We will ever see a thoughtful discussion of what policies the state can and should adopt to foster economic and population growth/
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 7:34pm
Three of our children have moved out of state. As we travel around the country, people ask where we live. When we tell them Michigan their response is almost always one of pity. In my 70 years of living in Michigan I have seen it go downhill in all aspects of life; socially, politically; economically, and in governance. Our politicians no longer care about the common good. Seeing no improvement in sight, it is no wonder our young people are leaving never to return. Their parents are following.
John Q. Public
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 8:31pm
All a government really has to do to attract more citizens is take care of the existing ones--the organic ones, not the corporate. Michigan has been a dismal failure at that for the last thirty years, and there's little it can do about it now that won't take thirty years more to fix. We've been encouraging our own kids to get out, and I hope they listen. It has nothing to do with public transportation or entertainment venues, and everything to do with elected officials who ignore the express wishes of the people, and those same people who let them do it. Surrounded by tyrant "leaders" and a milquetoast electorate willing to suffer fools gladly is no way to live, and by the time the ship gets turned, most of their adult lives will be over. For the millennial generation, this state is a lost cause.
Tue, 01/19/2016 - 8:53pm
Like it or not, Detroit holds the key for Michigan. After fifty years of decline, neglect and corruption, the City is finally getting things right, however admittedly there is a massive way to go, however with dollars and a collective will, things can be turned around quickly in the US, just as my home city here in Australia has transformed from sleepy hollow to a vibrant cosmopolitan city within twenty years. But, you have to start somewhere despite the seemingly overwhelming job ahead, however it is a job that simply must be done for the future of Michigan. People no longer want to live in suburbs!. Worldwide. Cities are where majority of young educated people, the future, wish to live. If only we could turn back the clock and stop the demolitions of the majestic buildings and importantly, the mass transit infrastructure which was mistakenly ripped up at the demands of the Big Three. We now see the stark reality of that short sighted decision!! M1 Rail is a small but significant start, however billions need to be invested to bring the rail to the people, to bring them back into the City. Populate of perish! From afar, there appears to be too many layers of self interested and protectionist government authorities, from the Cities to the Counties to the State which has created fragmented planning schemes still allowing for unchecked suburban sprawl which must be limited at best. Detroit, like it or not, is the centre piece of the State, its crown, and atm one which is in disarray to say the least however with all cities working together for a central solution, the growth and development of Detroit will only benefit all and not just Detroit, for Michigan cannot remain to be viewed as a great big suburb, with a once great city rotting at its core. With population being enticed back into the core of Detroit, a greater revenue base will ensue, allowing for greater spend in vital infrastructure such as safety, education and mass transit but this will need intervention from Lansing [capital should be in Detroit] and co operation form the many self interested surrounding cities which act independently to the detriment of the collective. I am aiming to relocate not to the US, but to Detroit, a city far removed and nothing like my hometown Melbourne, but a place where I truly feel at home and alive.
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 12:36am
There are many parts of Michigan irregardless of Detroit, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Traverse City, and smaller towns in between that have prospered even during the last 10 years. As for the mass transit, its demise was built on the affluence and the nature of Detroit. Detroit never was an urban city like New York, or Chicago, it is a suburban city. It never had the high density areas it was primary single family homes. When people were able to afford a car they began moving to places where they could live a more family style, larger lots and homes, better access to everyday shopping, access to schools that they could travel too and were more social. It wasn't the Big 3 directing the demise of the electric trolleys and the City bus system, it was the lack of use. Northland epitomized the downfall of mass transit in Detroit and Wayne county. There are many dynamics that set Detroit on it path, not the least of which was how they perceived their residents and those businesses they relied on, and where they could to make the least effort to get the most money to spend. Detroit is not the driver of Michigan commerce and the success or failure of our economy, it is simply a place that outsiders get to dabble at social politics. There is nothing wrong with the urban sprawl except for the people who don't feel others should have the right to choose where and how to live. Let Detroit become the new farm lands of Michigan and prove that farm land can be created. The Michigan culture is one of independent living not high density living. As for long-term planning, consider how Detroit was laid out like a hub and spokes so people can get in and out of the center with the least obstructions.
Concerned Comme...
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 4:15am
"irregardless" isn't a word. It's "regardless". You should stay in Michigan.
Frustrated Taxpayer
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 2:28pm
Concerned Comment Reader is that the best you can do? Instead of correcting one grammar mistake how about addressing the points made in the article if you don't agree with them.
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 2:16am
Frustrated, The comment was correct and I should reread what I wrote before submit it. But at least that much was read.
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 3:01pm
That brings back memories. My dad would be talking and to see if I was listening, he would say, "Irregardless of the rectumspect." He'd laugh and laugh. He's still around, thank heavens.
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 2:04am
Point taken, but Missouri is similarly accepting and they don't even call you a hoosier [different then Indiana].
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 2:05am
Point taken.
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 12:42am
I agree that the main factor driving emigration is lack of good paying jobs. Of course, people who are offered good jobs often also have other offers, and when comparing offers the quality of life factors come into play. One of the quality of life factors is does a location have an economy where one can find the next job. But our governor looks at this and says "skilled trades". While all the cold states are losing population, Michigan is losing more than most cold states. On the bright side, one of the selling points of MI is some great universities where ones kids can get an education that will help them find a job anywhere in the country.
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 8:41am
Many employers in Michigan are just plain cheapskates and why should someone stay here when they can make more money somewhere else?. These so called "Business leaders of Michigan" need to get honest with themselves as to what a major part of the problem is.
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 9:19am
I have lived in Michigan since the late 1970s, when I first moved here from NY state after getting my East Coast college degree. It was a great place back in the day - good wages and modest housing costs - right up through the late 90s. But the "lost decade" really, really took a toll. Not only is this state no longer so egalitarian and prosperous as it once was, attitudes have changed. It used to be a place where people helped each other out. Now there's so much negativity and divisiveness. I don't see that getting better any time soon. My son has now gone off to college in another state, and I do not expect him to come back. When he settles down somewhere, I plan to move closer to him.
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 9:47am
When I graduated I looked at moving out west, decided that the higher pay would be eaten up by longer hours, higher taxes and ridiculous cost of living, and stayed put. When the tech bubble burst I was glad I stayed. That said, making it easier to start businesses would be a good idea. Snyder was on the right track with tax simplification but that effort seems to have stalled? Don't make me ask permission, don't offer "programs", just make it as simple as possible. Agree with denser, walkable infrastructure. They're screaming bloody murder in opposition to that in Ann Arbor. Time to build a new, modern city? With world-class Internet? 1Gbps symmetric over fiber ought to be baseline by now.
lewis(Bill) Dickens
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 9:55am
Just look at the Architecture in the Background and you will know what Cities are Fresh.
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 11:18am
The main reason young people (25-35) flee Michigan is career outlook, not just "jobs". Michigan is a tough market in any field, and it is much more difficult to make a name for yourself than it is in other states outside the Midwest. Sure, you can find a job out of college, but the opportunities for advancement are more rare, and the effort required to excel is much greater with not as much payoff. Job offers come in from out of state with higher pay, more advancement opportunity and an overall better job quality. When you have lived in a state where you have worked to keep your job - much less be promoted - and see friends in other states continue to advance, the choice to leave is not difficult. Add to that the desire to raise a family and have stability in a fickle economy with layoffs commonplace, and the choice is made for you. Sure, it has gotten better in Michigan since the early 2000's, but better compared to what?
Wed, 01/20/2016 - 2:35pm
Will Gov.Tricky Ricky personally pay for the new Flint water system? Perhaps a plea deal in exchange? Or will it be the 99%? The 1% pay for nothing. I hope that St Christopher is looking out for our Peds Doctor and her VA Tech colleague.
Thu, 01/21/2016 - 12:49pm
I got laid off and about 3 years ago moved from Detroit to Grand Rapids. What a difference. This city is resurrecting there inner city, has a wonderful bus system but still has the warmth of a small town. I have also found the medical care to be superior to the metro area. Their school system is also more progressive and offer children more choices than Detroit. A lot of the comments have been very negative but I wonder how many of these people have gotten involved in local or state government. Have they even bothered to vote? If you are unhappy get involved and do something about it! "The power of one". One person can make a difference.
Fri, 01/22/2016 - 1:16pm
In the same vein as MG and Matt Too...It's extremely frustrating as an MI expat living in WA to see nothing mentioned of how Michigan under Snyder has repeatedly sought to tell anyone in the LGBTQ community that they do not matter--publications like Bridge MI do nothing to bring this to light in the above article. Oh, a talented white, blond, (presumably) straight girl moved to Minneapolis for Shania Twain concerts? The horror. Why would I, a gay University of Michigan graduate, stay in MI only to have an attorney general actively and spitefully fight my right to marry, tell me I can't adopt a child with a partner, have no statewide hate crimes protection--so that when someone in rural MI is beating me to death while yelling f*ggot, they'll at most get an assault charge with no additional prosecution for targeted violence--and no workplace or housing protection so that most of Michigan still allows employers to fire you for being LGBTQ or for a landlord to refuse you as a tenant based on your sexuality? Michigan, as the Flint water crisis has shown, cares nothing for human rights of any creed, color or sexuality. This has less to do with young talent and more to do with escaping a governor and legislature that will fight anyone who doesn't look like them or go to their church.
Nancy Derringer
Fri, 01/22/2016 - 1:27pm
Sorry, Matthew. I know you said "in this article," but we've written on LGBT discrimination and policy many times – this time, and this time, and also this time. Here's something else I wrote personally. Keep reading Bridge, though, and thanks for commenting.
Sun, 01/24/2016 - 11:51am
To say that only jobs matter and not amenities/quality of life is missing the point (and shows the mentality that has kept Michigan behind). Polls show young talented people go to places that have what most Michigan cities don't want to invest in: alternatives to cars; good public spaces; etc. Of course they also need jobs, but those jobs don't just exist in nature. They are created by other people/companies that also want to locate in cities that offer what Michigan ones do not. Partly because they want to live there, partly because they know it's easier to get good talent there. Many young entrepreneurs in fact go to attractive places, which have large networks of talent, not having a job there. Remember East Lansing's Larry Page left for Stanford and decided to stay in the "liberal" Bay Area because it had invested in stuff that made it a good host for job creators and talent.
Sun, 01/24/2016 - 12:09pm
I found this on a website that had a list of the 15 most dangerous places in the world. Is this an accurate description of Detroit?: No list of the world’s most dangerous places would be complete without making some mention of Detroit, America’s own in-house third world country. Entire neighborhoods of people in this American city live without electricity or clean water. In 2015, the 911 response time was somewhere over an hour. It’s murder rate is about 10 times the national average, coming in at or near the top of the list of murder capitals of America many years running. The city balances that out with countless of cases of assault, arson, robbery and other crimes throughout the year. And, if that’s not enough there’s always the roving packs of violent stray dogs to be wary of.
Tue, 02/02/2016 - 10:18am
What the heck "job creators"? How can that be? You slackers! Decades (literally going back to John Engler and his 31 tax cuts) of making Michigan a pro-business, low-tax state - how can you people be allowing all this young talent to flee? What on earth did the job creators (who got a huge boost from Snyder in his first term) do with all that money if they weren't creating jobs?
Sun, 02/14/2016 - 3:36pm
I grew up in Grand Rapids, graduated from U of M in the mid 80's and promptly moved to Chicago. A vibrant city with jobs, no need for a car, and an active social scene... this combination wasn't obtainable in Michigan. Now as a parent of a Spartan and another soon to be college student, I have different questions related to the exodus of talent. Are we not losing our talent potential earlier? Are parents possibly driving this talent drain, not at college graduation, but at the time of college selection? How many parents are encouraging their students to attend out of state schools, especially when there is an equalizing financial offset from said out of state school? All things Financial being equal, if my student wished to attend a suitable college or university out of state, I would be very supportive especially if that state had better employment opportunities or if the school had a successful job placement /recruiting program.
Wed, 03/02/2016 - 10:38am
Ted, while I think your article is outstanding, like so many analyses of this kind, I think it's missing a key point. I'm a U of M alum, a former Television Producer for WDIV-TV and a former Strategic Planning Analyst for Coca-Cola. In the latter two jobs I had to synthesize lots of data to evaluate behavioral trends but, in the end, after all the numbers were crunched and there was a conclusion ready to be drawn, I often had to step back and look not at the details -- but at the generalities. Young college grads are not leaving Detroit and Michigan just because of the weather or amenities or transportation or similar oft-mentioned variables. It's something simpler and more general than that. The recent generation of kids are more geographically plugged-in to the rest of the country than my generation because of the internet. Prior to the millennium, grads did not venture beyond southeast Michigan or the Midwest cities as much as they do now because their sphere of familiarity and interaction was not as great that their own regional backyard. But with the internet, people see and hear more about Austin, Seattle, Baltimore, Cambridge, Berkeley, etc, They can connect with those cities visually and informationally in ways we never could. That access to information generates interest and fosters a greater comfort level when deciding to relocate. In the past, grads relied on the recommendations of friends or a relative to decide on venturing more than 300 miles from home to take a job. But now they can access so much more information and "visit" a city digitally. Moreover, because millennials are learning about and seeing much more of the country than their parents because of the internet, there's a natural inclination to venture out and explore more. Why stay close to home and live the same life you did for 18 years when you can experience Boston or Denver or Washington DC, or Austin? Your 20s are the time to do that. It's the "restless decade" and the "mobile decade" for all of us. While job opportunities, climate, transportation, and amenities play a big role, I think there's a stronger underlying current driving the exodus of college grads from cities in Michigan. I think it's the need for adventure and a departure for the status quo. The world has changed. Mobility drives communication and it is now driving career decisions because the internet has provided us vicarious experiences of other cities. I think the aspects of exploration and change of venue is at least a 30% factor in the decision of whether to remain in-state or venture elsewhere. Data is great to draw conclusions but it's often the "intangible" rather than the "tangible" that drives decision making for young adults. Sincerely, Gerry Zonca Executive Director "Light Up Detroit" Productions
Tue, 07/05/2016 - 10:16am
Hard to believe but Detroit was once a great city and Michigan was a State where people wanted to be. My impression is that things started to deteriorate with the Engler administration where the major goal was tax cuts for the rich and the corporations while skimping on education and infrastructure. Even now, the Legislature cuts funding for education, especially 'higher' education wherever they can. Detroit is indeed a major factor and just about everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. There are gradual signs of improvement, but the schools cannot seem to graduate students ready for college or much else. I don't have any ready answers, but somehow more money needs to be found to make a start at moving in the direction that California has adopted.
Tue, 07/05/2016 - 5:47pm
TO ALL OF YOU - Stop using Flint as the poster child of tragedy in Michigan. While the water crisis is a serious situation for many, it is not sum total of who or what we are. We have survived GM leaving and taking almost all our good jobs. We survived the first of many black eyes from the film Roger and Me. We have survived poverty, environmental degradation (thanks to GM) corrupt government and poor K-12 education oversight. HOWEVER, we continue to move forward because we are STRONG AS FLINT (the hard flinty stone, in case the pun is lost on you). If you want to learn how to overcome crushing adversity, come to Flint - we'll show you how. We'll show you our new businesses, and the young 2-30-something's who are starting them, everything from restaurants, to shoemakers to local grocers, to flower shops. Come see our amazing Farmer's Market, Art Museum, History Museum, Symphony Orchestra, phenomenal Public Library - a site for NPR's StoryCorps. Sure, we still have problems, but we also have a LOT of solutions. All this hand-wringing about the the college-educated diaspora (yup - some of us are college educated too!) in Michigan seems a little whiny to us. Yes, we need more enlightened legislators - some of the best in Michigan come from Flint - Dan Kildee and Jim Ananich, Debbie Stabenow. But this debacle did not start with the current tough nerd - it goes all the way back to Engler - who dismantled public education from the inside out by not paying into the teacher retirement fund as mandated by the state contract and who let GM get away with paying little to no taxes. Face it - the presidential election is a poularity contest - the real power is at the state level - don't like what's going on/ STOP VOTING FOR PEOPLE WHO PROMISE TO LOWER YOUR TAXES. Taxes are what fund all these things you want - private investors can't come close to the buying power of all of us collectively. So, from all of us in Flint - WELCOME TO OUR WORLD! Now, roll up your sleeves and quit whining.
Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:23pm

I find it very interesting that people are flocking to southern, conservative states that haven't killed off their businesses and economy with stifling legislation, yet many posts above reveal disdain towards conservatism. If you want infrastructure, "cool cities" and nice roads, its going to take more than government. You need businesses that bring OUTSIDE money into the state. It's going to take far more than a few extra tourists from Chicago seeking less crowded beaches to ignite the furnace of prosperity. Manufacturing is a one trick pony, and we've all been burned enough by 3 companies holding all the cards for tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers. Honestly, if my parents didn't live here, I would have left quickly after graduation as well. The article focuses on the present, but people are graduating and seeking a future...and they aren't seeing it here. Even if you make every bathroom transgender and we have superfast rail to get you to the unemployment office in mere minutes. Reread the article. New York and Illinois lost more people than us. Super liberal...totally doesn't matter. Putting your debit card in the machine and seeing a way forward for your family, now that matters. These straw man arguments will be the end of us all.

Wed, 08/03/2016 - 5:07pm
I moved away 20 years ago to Washington state after graduating from MSU. I didn't leave because of jobs but because I wanted to live somewhere that could offer a city living experience, which Michigan hasn't been able to offer for about 60 years. Sorry, but Ann Arbor doesn't count, cute as it is. I've considered moving back-- MI is beautiful, family is there and housing is cheap. But the state has deteriorated so much. I heard Michissippi for the first time last visit, and it pains me to have to agree. It appears that most ambitious people are leaving, and it is slowly becoming a backwater. It seems headed to be a place where most people are on the dole, and the good jobs are universities, medical and government. Not very robust. After years of tax cuts to "stimulate business" when do people wake up and realize there is more to life than low taxes.
Tue, 12/27/2016 - 11:20am

What I did not see in the article was a breakdown of migration patterns that takes into account age. How many of those going to Florida are retirees? And how many of those are snow birds who actually live in Michigan longer than they live in Florida each year, but choose to have their residency in Florida for tax purposes?Secondly, there is no mention of skilled trades and the lack of qualified people to take those jobs. Many of those positions pay better than those requiring a four year degree, but we keep pushing a college degree like it's the gateway to the promised land.

Mark Ehle
Tue, 12/27/2016 - 4:51pm

As long as the republican party continue to run this once-great state into the ground, this problem will continue. If I were a much younger man, I would not be here now.

Wed, 12/28/2016 - 5:15am

I grew up in southeast Michigan, earning a degree in geology from the University of Michigan, and later grad degrees at the University of Wisconsin. In my field, there was never much work available in Michigan, so it was obligatory to move elsewhere, and in the years since, we have visited family in Michigan often, and sent my son to attend Hope College for his undergrad degree. However, Michigan has become a difficult place for a family to thrive economically, and I expect my son to eventually seek greener pastures back in Texas where he grew up. Texas is in so many ways the opposite of Michigan, strong economic growth, low levels of public services, low wages for blue collar employees, virtually no public land or recreational facilities, but Texas did do one thing right, and it mattered a lot to make Texas a prosperous place. In Texas, de facto segregation of major urban areas was prevented by giving major cities "extra territorial jurisdiction" that allowed them preferentially annex new suburban growth outside the city limits. New cities can't be formed, and small towns can't grow into separate suburbs within the area of extra territorial jurisdiction. Consequently, Houston, Austin and San Antonio became large diverse and integrated cities that functioned as regional governments. The center city never became a racially segregated core ring-fenced by apathetic suburbs. The great irony is that Texas was always less interested in furthering racial equality than Michigan, but they did not want to allow the center cities to become minority enclaves separate from a reasonable tax base, as Texas cities have always functioned on property tax revenue. While I expect the vested interests in Michigan would never allow it, redefining all of urban southeastern Michigan from the Ohio border to Port Huron as one single city with a federal structure similar to that of Toronto would give the tax resources to the decision makers with the broadest public interest. I expect that a generation from now, Michigan would be a much better place for it.