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Michigan’s Transition to a Knowledge-Based Economy:
First Annual Progress Report

Lou Glazer, President, Michigan Future, Inc.

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Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future, Inc., presented statistics from a recently released report that shows metropolitan Detroit and the state must get younger and better educated or we will get poorer.

States that are prospering share several traits:

  • a large metropolitan area that has an even higher per capita income than the rest of the state,

  • a high proportion of college graduates in the population,

  • a high proportion of wages coming from knowledge industries, and

  • a high proportion of the residents in the largest city in the metropolitan area are college graduates.

The study shows that Michigan is trending in the wrong direction in all of these areas. Michigan is getting older and less educated compared to the country. If we don’t break these downward trends our problems will continue to get worse. We are at a cross roads, we can align with the trends and continue the decline, or we can reverse the trends and recreate a high prosperity Michigan.

There is no help coming, as Lou said, borrowing from Hopi teaching, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, if we don’t do it who will?” Now is the time to face the brutal truth.

GlazerIn 2006, Michigan ranked 26th in per capita income, an unprecedented drop of 10 places in a relatively short six-year period. It ranked 37th in the share of wages from knowledge-based industries and 34th in the proportion of adults with a bachelors degree or more.

The data also shows that eight of the nine highest prosperity states are characterized by successful metropolitan areas with high concentrations in knowledge-based industries and a high proportion of adults with four-year degrees or more. Retaining and attracting talent is the key to building a high prosperity economy in Michigan.

Talent is concentrating in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Quite simply, vibrant central cities matter. The most mobile segment of the population—young college graduates without children—is choosing to live in central city neighborhoods.

The report calculates college-educated movers in two ways:

  • the share of national movers with a college degree (Michigan ranks 17th), and

  • college educated movers as a share of the area's adult population (Michigan ranks 49th).

Of the 53 metro regions studied, metro Detroit ranked 23rd and 39th, metro Grand Rapids 52nd and 37th, respectively.

Michigan is substantially lagging the nation, it is last in overall employment growth and 44th in employment growth in high education attainment industries. The state and its three largest metropolitan areas have suffered heavy manufacturing job losses in the non-high education attainment industries.

AudienceThere is some good news. Michigan does have modest employment gains in the high education attainment industries. Despite large employment declines in the knowledge-based portion of the automotive industry, Michigan experienced growth
of nearly 47,000 jobs in the education and health sectors—where most of the national job growth occurred.

The report concludes that what most
distinguishes successful areas from Michigan
is their concentrations of talent, where talent is defined as a combination of knowledge, creativity and entrepreneurship. States and regions without concentrations of talent will have great difficulty retaining or attracting knowledge-based enterprises, and they are not likely to be the place where new knowledge-based enterprises are created.

The study recommends the following actions to reverse Michigan’s downward spiral.

  • Build a culture that values learning and entrepreneurial spirit that is welcoming to all.

  • Create places where talent wants to live.

  • Invest in a vibrant and agile higher education system.

  • Transform teaching and learning so that it is aligned with the realities of a flat world.

  • Develop leadership that is focused on preparing, retaining, and attracting talent.


If you have any questions, please contact: 
Colleen Layton, or Arnold Weinfeld, .




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