Detroit Today: What can Michigan do to grow young talent in the state?

Young professionals and a member of Michigan’s Growing Together Council discuss what it would take to foster population retention and growth in the state.

A row of houses in Highland Park

Highland Park

Michigan has fallen behind other states in population growth, jobs, earnings, health educational achievement and the quality of public services at the state and local levels. That’s according to a report from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. 

Michigan’s population has declined for the past two years, as nearly half of young Michigan residents expect they might leave the state in the future. On top of that, the average Michigan resident is much older, sicker and poorer than a decade ago.

In hopes of addressing the problem, Governor Whitmer announced the creation of the Growing Michigan Together Council at this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference. As of airing, only one of the 16 commissioners named was under the age of 30. 

Listen: The factors young people consider when choosing to live in Michigan.


Paul Jones III is a community planner with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center who left the state recently for his job in Massachusetts.

Jones III noted that while he badly wanted to stay in Detroit, he had to move elsewhere in order to progress his career. In his case, he focused on the field of urban planning in cities that are more inclined towards public transportation.

“Michigan is really, really focused on continuing to prioritize the auto industry,” says Jones III.

Rachel Levy is a clinical social worker in private practice who moved to the state for her undergraduate education and decided to stay ever since. Levy says that when she came to Michigan for college, she was searching for place-based community.

“Detroiters rely on each other a lot, and I do think that creates a really unique sense of community,” says Levy.

Cary Junior II is a journalist and podcast producer for WDET who returned to Michigan after attending college in Atlanta. He says he still feels the effects of a stagnant economy.

“I definitely feel a lack of diverse job [opportunities] in this region,” says Junior II.

Camilla Lizundia is an urban planner and artist in Philadelphia. They were raised in California and attended the University of Michigan for undergraduate and graduate studies.

Public transportation was a driving factor in Lizundia’s decision to move out-of-state.

“I refuse to own a car, mainly for climate reasons,” says Lizundia. “If I wanted to stay in Michigan and be mobile, I would have needed a car.”

Samuel Robinson is a reporter covering Detroit for Axios who grew up, attended college in, and works in the state of Michigan. He says state and local policy decisions often ignore the interests of young people.

Robinson highlights how the Michigan Growing Together Council includes only one person under the age of 30 thus far.

“We know why young people are leaving the state – just ask us,” says Robinson.

Sandy Baruah is the President and CEO of Detroit Regional Chamber, as well as a commissioner on the Growing Michigan Together Council. He rejects that policymakers have to choose between economic growth and attracting young people to the state of Michigan.

Baruah says the two issues go hand in hand.

“When you look at the places that are attracting people, one of the key elements is that there are economic opportunities,” says Baruah.

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