Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards

Michigan must take bold steps to grow population

This opinion editorial was originally posted by The Detroit News and written by Angelique Power, president & CEO of The Skillman Foundation, and Donna Lasinski, vice president of Michigan Future Inc. Both are members of the Growing Michigan Together Council PK-12 Education Workgroup.

A state is only as strong as its people. And Michigan has been losing them.

We’re now one of 36% of states seeing population declines. That means young people and families believe they have to leave in order to achieve their dreams and establish their careers.

Even with all of the advancements we’ve made — including achieving the best-performing economy in the nation after the COVID-19 pandemic per Bloomberg, and our ranking as a top 10 state for business by CNBC — too many people believe their future is outside of Michigan.

We cannot let this continue. We either take bold action now and reverse this trend or do the same thing we’ve always done and fall further behind.

Since August, chief growth officer Hilary Doe and her team have connected with thousands of residents, listening to their hopes and visions for how to help Michigan keep more of them here. The team has also received more than 10,000 survey responses from people across the state who have creative ideas about how we can attract and retain talent.

Growing Michigan Together workgroups were tasked with making recommendations that we believe will reverse this loss and spur growth across our state. As members of the Growing Michigan Together PreK-12 Education workgroup, we engaged in deep conversation and presented serious solutions that echo what we’re hearing from Michiganians and experts.

Hilary Doe, Chief Growth Officer at the Growing Michigan Together Council, talks with a reporter at a community picnic hosted by Growing Michigan Together and The Skillman Foundation at King High School in Detroit on Oct. 15, 2023. Photo by Robin Buckson, The Detroit News.

The evidence is overwhelming. If we’re going to grow the state, we have to ensure that every Michiganian, regardless of where they live or how much they make, can get a great education that leads to a great future. We also have to attract talent, good-paying jobs and boost quality of life with walkable vibrant central cities.

We need real, lasting investment in our infrastructure.

We are proud to say that the recommendations we made are bold, thoughtful strategies that will move Michigan forward. Some require rethinking how we invest in our schools and communities, and if the state is serious about keeping and attracting people, it’s an essential effort that’s worthy of the investment.

We welcome the Council’s discussion and debate of all of our proposals and the public engagement feedback as it’s determined which recommendations will be presented to the governor.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to push beyond the status quo. We can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Comments (2)

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  • I don’t know if this has been mentioned, but many people who live in Northern Michigan refuse to travel “down state” because they believe that the area is too dangerous to travel through. Detroit, Saginaw, Flint, and Muskegon Heights are perpetuated for being some of the most crime ridden cities in the entire nation.
    We are ranked 39/50 in public school student aptitude and the lottery pumps a billion/year into the school system, so I’m anxious to see the proposals for enhancing state public school education.

  • Craig E Smith

    In order to retain young talent in the state of Michigan, the following needs to be considered: Education must become a priority. It is inexcusable to be at the bottom 10 in the United States. The job base has to be diversified. An emphasis on not only Education, but medicine, technology, trade, STEM, and improved mass transit and Art has to be added in addition to manufacturing. The cost of living has to become more affordable. High insurance, high crime and high poverty rates in our urban areas only perpetuate young people taking their talents to States like Georgia, Texas , Tennessee. Arizona , Nevada and Florida. An infusion of young talent in leadership positions in the political arena. Entrepreneurship/small businesses must be encouraged for all. If DEI is to be the norm in the state, more programs of empowerment has to be emphasized for both genders.

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