The implications of Michigan’s population stagnation: A conversation with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Population stagnation is a challenge faced by many states and regions across the nation, and Michigan is no exception. It’s a predicament that, if left unaddressed, experts say could have significant and far-reaching consequences for the state’s economy, workforce and long-term prosperity.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has made addressing this issue a top priority and has established the “Growing Michigan Together Council” to propose solutions. The council’s findings and recommendations, anticipated in December, will play a pivotal role in determining the state’s trajectory.  

The Council has set out to address preK-12 education, higher education, infrastructure, and workforce development, as well as gather expert opinions and lived experiences of how Michigan can attract and retain more young professionals and students. The problem currently is, more than half of young Michiganders living in the state say they won’t likely stay through the next decade.

A survey of 18–29-year-olds conducted by the Detroit Regional Chamber and Business Leaders for Michigan revealed that only 64% of respondents within this age group envision themselves residing in Michigan a decade from now, with college-educated individuals showing a stronger inclination to consider relocating.  

The majority of survey respondents cited better infrastructure and affordable housing as two key factors in the decision of where they want to live. Others surveyed also pointed to the changing climate and LGBTQ+ and abortion rights as factors.

To better understand where Gov. Whitmer stands on this issue, One Detroit contributor Zoe Clark, political director for Michigan Radio, sat down with Gov. Whitmer at Marygrove Conservancy for a one-on-one interview about where Michigan’s population growth efforts are headed.  

They talk about Michigan’s unique access to fresh water in the face of climate change, as well as the state’s decision to protect LGBTQ+ rights and a woman’s right to choose. Plus, they discuss previous governor’s attempts to address the state’s population challenges, like former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s “Cool Cities” initiative, and the importance of telling Michigan’s story to the world.

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