The importance of millennials in Michigan’s core cities

Fresh off of the West Michigan Policy Forum, there’s a buzz over Michigan’s economy and our core cities.  Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, Dan Loepp of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Dick DeVos of Windquest Group and Grand Action, spoke together at the start of the second day of the forum to explain why millennials are essential to the health of Michigan’s core cities.

For reference, millennials tend to be characterized as being the children of the baby-boomers.  They are generally marked as having an increased use and familiarity with communications, media and digital technologies.  Millennials, and all recent college graduates, are considered a creative class because we are fresh out of the innovation-driven classroom, as well as being so deeply connected in digital communications.  Most core cities are pining for millennials as it is said that just a 1 percent increase of college graduates brings a $7.5 billion increase to economic growth.

Stressing the importance of building the strength of cities like Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Lansing; millennials have become the focus of influence and structure for the future.  A number of factors work in Michigan’s favor for keeping young people in our state and in our cities.  Generally speaking, Michigan is cheaper to live and cheaper to do business in than states with bigger metropolitan areas. Therefore, young millennials can have an easier time affording the living expenses associated with cities.

Millennials in our core cities bring a crop of new, fresh ideas and even encourage repopulation as those individuals get a bit older and settle into families.

“It’s the environment and culture of downtowns that breeds creativity,” says Gilbert.

In fact, Rick DeVos (son of Dick DeVos) has become a strong example of revitalizing a core city (Grand Rapids) with creativity by founding  ArtPrize and StartGarden.  As the senior DeVos reiterates, “invest in your center cities because energy moves from the center out.”

In short, if we want our surrounding suburbs to be as innovative as our core cities, investment and creation starts at the center and starts with the millennials.

So what is the draw of an urban downtown?

“Young talent wants to be in urban cores.  They want to be in a connected, collaborative environment.  It’s imperative that Michigan have thriving downtowns,” says Gilbert.

The millennials in cities creates a new energy and vibe essential to the growth of the city and its community, as core cities are growing knowledge-based centers. Bruce Katz, Vice President and Director, Metropolitan Policy Program for the Brookings Institution, left the West Michigan Policy Forum with a thought-provoking notion regarding what investing in our core cities and core economies means. Katz said, “once you have that kind of concentration, 2+2 no longer equals 4, 2+2 equals 5.”

I believe the significance of his statement lies in the fact that creation, collaboration and connection surfaces from the innovation and the heightened ambition present in millennials and their goals.  We, as millennials, strive towards a greater outcome and a more determined future.

What is your city doing to keep millennials there after graduation?

Photo credit: ifmuth

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