LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The Growing Michigan Together Council released its initial proposals after six months of working to identify ways to grow Michigan’s resident and workforce populations. 

“To successfully boost the population, we have to take the time to listen to our state’s most valuable resource – Michiganders,” said Hilary Doe, Chief Growth Officer for the council. “Our commitment to building a thriving and inclusive Michigan extends beyond statistics and spreadsheets; it’s about understanding the unique aspirations and concerns of individuals and families from all walks of life.” 

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The Council hosted and attended more than 70 in-person and virtual events and engaged with more than 3,000 Michiganders in-person. 

“I’m incredibly grateful for every single person who took the time to complete the survey,” said Doe. “Ensuring Michigander’s voices are heard and incorporated into the population growth work will make Michigan a better place to live for future generations.”

Improved infrastructure was the most pressing issue facing communities according to 30% of respondents, while 13% said better career and education opportunities were paramount.  10% recognized accessible and available housing as the most pressing issue. 

In addition to the survey of Michiganders, the Growing Michigan Together team also used a national poll to gather information about young people’s motivations for moving to and from areas – more than 90% of respondents were between the ages of 15 and 36. “50% of respondents said job or educational opportunities motivated them to relocate, 27% said proximity to family and 13% said cost of living,” according to the council. 

Even after receiving an extension in early November, the group released its results on Wednesday, which was first published by MIRS News, whose goals include becoming a top-ten growth state by 2050. 

The GMTC had ten recommendations, which can be seen here, mostly pertaining to expanding education opportunities for P-12 grade students, and college and trade students. The report acknowledged that some of Michigan’s youngest are not succeeding in school. 

“Average performance masks some alarming facts: less than one-third of Michigan students are proficient in either reading or math at either fourth or eighth grade, and even higher performing students trail their peers in other states,” according to the GMTC report. 

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The report also determined that “The standards to which we held our education system in the past are no longer good enough.”

As far as jobs are concerned, the council’s recommendations included recommendations four through seven as seen below: 

  • Establish Michigan as the innovation hub of the Midwest, growing and calling businesses in high-tech, high-wage industries
  • Implement novel programs and incentives to retain higher-education graduates, growing the talent pipeline for critical knowledge-based jobs
  • Expand programs and resources to ensure all Michiganders have the training and support services needed to participate in the workforce 
  • Make Michigan the most attractive and inclusive state for international talent in the Midwest 

In an effort to ensure a “smooth transition for immigrant families to relocate to Michigan” and make the state a hub for attracting international talent, the council recommended  “a state-led concierge service that provides legal assistance and streamlines all processes for employers and immigrants (e.g., reduce barriers for obtaining driver’s license, maximize H-1B visa utilization, language access).”

It also encouraged the development of a strategy to ensure “licensed/credentialed professionals from outside the United States can have their relevant documentation translated and applied to Michigan’s license or credential standards.

“Develop and support a clear pathway for migrant families to access skilled trades training and education opportunities at colleges and universities, including more portable community college credits as migrant workers follow the job opportunities that brought them to Michigan,” the council said. 

Michigan House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township) shared his discontent with the initial report, particularly with the likely increase in costs to taxpayers. 

“The population council’s current proposal isn’t even a real plan and has no strategy to grow our population,” he said in a statement. “It’s just a long wish list for new revenues —- tax hikes on Michiganders. Tampering with the Headlee Amendment, which protects residents against high property taxes, would be especially harmful.” 

He also predicted a short life expectancy for the proposal if it should reach the legislature. 

“Instead of expanding housing options to bring residents to Michigan communities, hiking property taxes would raise housing costs for homeowners and renters alike,” he added. “If these high-tax recommendations are the council’s final proposal, it’s dead on arrival in the Legislature.” 

The council was assembled in June by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and includes a variety of business leaders, and legislators, only one of which is a Republican.  Representative Pauline Wendzel (R-Watervliet) shared some concerns about the on-going progress ahead of the new report. 

“I’m deeply concerned this council is being used to justify a massive tax increase on Michigan families when they can least afford it,” Rep. Wendzel said in the email. “One presentation was dedicated to “explaining that Michigan is not a high tax state.” The reality is that policies matter, and no matter how much of other people’s money the government spends, it’s pro-growth policies, certainty in the regulations, in energy policy, and a highly skilled workforce that will result in Michigan attracting and retaining talent.   

The GMTC is expected to submit a final growth oriented policy recommendations to the Governor later this December.