Friday, May 27, 2011

What's Wrong with Michigan?

Back in July last year a really revealing letter started appearing in the blogosphere. Sorry I didn't spot it earlier and bring it to your attention! It's about what's wrong with Michigan, and it's interesting because (a) it's from a business man - a lawyer, actually; and (b) he's not just griping, he's aching to find a solution. He sent this letter (essay, really) to Michigan Future, Lou Glazer's outfit that I've mentioned more than once before.

I'm going to give you a few excerpts to whet your appetite, and send you off to read the whole thing. So here are the quotes:

We’d like to stay in Michigan, but we have a problem. It’s not taxes or regulations. There’s lots of talk about these issues but they have no impact on our business. We spend more on copiers and toner than we do on state taxes. Our problem is access to talent. We have high-paying positions open for patent attorneys in the software and semiconductor space. Even though it is one of the best hiring environments for IP firms in 40 years, we cannot fill these positions. Most qualified candidates live out of state and simply will not move here, even though they are willing to relocate to other cities. Our recruiters are very blunt. They say it is almost impossible to recruit to Michigan without paying big premiums above competitive salaries on the coasts. ...
The fundamental problem it seems to me is that our region [h]as gone berserk on suburbia to the expense of having any type of nearby open space or viable urban communities, which are the two primary spatial assets that attract and retain the best human capital.
...But despite our talents and resources, the region's problem of place may be intractable for one simple, sorry reason: our political and business leadership does not view poor quality of place as a problem and certainly lacks motivation to address the issue.
...The attitude of many in our region is that our problems are confined to Detroit city while the suburbs are thought to be lovely. We don’t have a perception problem, we have a reality problem. Most young, highly talented knowledge workers from places like Seattle or San Francisco or Chicago find the even the upper end suburbs of Metro Detroit to be unappealing. ...
Things are spread too far apart. You have to drive everywhere. There’s no mass transit.

Oh - and be sure to look at the two maps he's got in the letter.

Why our growing firm may have to leave Michigan.

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