Reinventing Michigan so as to accelerate the Michigan exodus

Brian Dickerson has a good piece in the Detroit Free Press today on the Republican agenda in Michigan and how it could be driving young, educated workers from our state. It’s essentially a continuation of the much-talked-about “Michissippi” article by Edward McClelland that ran in Salon last week. In that piece, as you’ll recall, McClelland speculated that, as a result of this most recent wave of Republican legislation, we’d lose even more of our bright, young college grads to Chicago. “Michigan has lost so many educated workers that the state’s leadership seems to feel it has no choice but to become a low-wage haven,” said McClelland. “The kind of place that attracts chicken processors, not software engineers.” And, on Friday, Governor Snyder sat down with Detroit Free Press reporters to discuss, among other things, whether this concern is justified. [spoiler alert: Snyder says that young people don’t care that he recently signed right-to-work legislation into being, and that it’s too early to speculate as to what the reaction might be to the other legislation which emerged from last week’s lame duck session, as it’s possible that he may exercise his veto on some of the more contentious bills.] Here’s video of Snyder being interviewed, followed by a clip from Dickerson’s article.

…But what do the newly minted college graduates so critical to Snyder’s vision see when they look at today’s Michigan?

If they’re reading the governor’s own website, they see a state that “has the 12th-friendliest tax system in America” and is “encouraging long-term, sustainable economic growth in rural areas by enacting a simple, fair and efficient severance tax for mining operations.”

(No, seriously: I’m quoting verbatim from the Friday press release in which the governor congratulated state legislators on the completion of their lame-duck session.)

But if young people are looking elsewhere — to newspaper websites, for instance, or cable news, or late-night TV comedians like John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, both wildly popular with the 18-30 audience — they see a different Michigan.

The Great Lakes State being ridiculed on the Daily Show and CNN is a insular, backward-looking place, suspicious of newcomers and new ideas — a state whose elected officials are busily erecting new obstacles to contraception, same-sex marriage and voting, and new opportunities for people who open for-profit prisons, hunt wolves or pack heat in church.

Really, lawmakers, is there something you’re not doing to make young college graduates feel unwelcome? How about raising the age of consent to 35, or booking Lawrence Welk tribute bands at the Palace?

In an hour-long conversation with the Free Press editorial board Friday afternoon, the governor appeared confident that the bills he’s signed into law to placate less-evolved Republicans simply don’t resonate the way his own initiatives do…

I have an idea that I think could help increase awareness as to what’s going on right now in Michigan, and, at the same time, put a little more pressure on Snyder. What if, right on the other side of each of our borders with other states, right alongside the highway, we set up refugee centers for people fleeing the extremist regime of Michigan? Can you imagine driving by a field of tents and large signs reading, “The people of Ohio welcome the young, college-educated workers of Michigan who are seeking to escape the sexist, homophobic, anti-intellectual forces currently controlling the Mitten State”… That, I think, would send one hell of a message.

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  1. Topher
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    Perhaps it will draw young conservative grads who aren’t attracted to big cities? The recent series of laws put into effect (no partner benefits, cuts to public schools, right-to-work, etc.) don’t necessarily make this a family friendly state (unless you have lots of money and are a corporate head, or if you have to take a job because there aren’t any others, or you are a very conservative Christian family), but maybe young people don’t care about those issues? When I was out of college I was looking for a) A fun city, b) a decent wage and benefits, c) opportunities for advancement, d) A really fun city.

  2. Edward
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Will young women want to live in a state where they can’t receive quality reproductive health care? Will gay people want to live in a state that, instead of protecting their rights, protects those of bigots? Can you have a “really fun city” without bright women and their gay friends? My guess is no.

  3. Knox
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    The brain drain is real. The number of college grads that stay in our state is alarmingly low. Our communities don’t offer what intelligent people want. And what Snyder and his cronies are doing will only accelerate this race to the bottom. Snyder may be right that young people don’t care about Right To Work, but they do care when the state cuts college funding, demonizes gays, and effectively ends abortion. Young people want thriving communities with a dedication to the environment, human rights, education, health care and mass transit. That’s why people keep moving to Chicago and Portland. The worst part is, Snyder knows it too. He’s just too much in the power of DeVoss and Engler to do anything about it. Watching him in this video, you can tell that he doesn’t believe what he’s saying. My sense is that when he set out to run for office, he had no idea that it would be this difficult. He thought that he could run the state like a CEO, and that’s simply not the case.

  4. Anne Nonymouse
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    “The kind of place that attracts chicken processors, not software engineers.

    In my experience, IT workers tend towards the Tea Party. The younger ones are usually at least socially liberal, but mostly they’re still infected with the pro-austerity mind-virus.

    Not really the most desirable demographic to try to attract/win back to our fair state.

  5. taco farts
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    This assumes you believe Snyder has the intentions he claims to, and seriously if anyone still thinks Snyder has Michigan in mind, it’s too late already.

  6. Joel
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I can’t agree more. I’ve always felt a bit annoyed at my friends who moved to Chicago or elsewhere, I felt like if the good people would just stay, Michigan could be really great again. But, right now it’s hard to not want to join them in jumping ship. I love Ypsi, I love Detroit, I love a lot of the rest of this state. But if there aren’t jobs for educated people, and then you can’t get affordable contraception, and my friends can’t get health care benefits because their gay, and people can bring guns into schools, and you can’t even organize to change things at your job, all because of Jesus and Freedom… Chicago’s looking nicer every day.

  7. Joel
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 10:54 am | Permalink


    (how embarrassing)

  8. anon
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    by all means, then, move to chicago.

    some of us are brave enough to stay here and fight back.

  9. Joel
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Oh Lordy.

    I own a house here. I have no plans to move. I’ve fought back plenty. I was simply saying it’s becoming harder to stay with this type of legislation.

    Maybe one day I’ll be as brave as an anonymous commenter.

  10. Eel
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    But they can pack heat in their college classrooms and shoot wolves for fun. What young straight make wouldn’t love that?

  11. Posted December 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    My bright, college-educated son has already booked (to Minneapolis-St. Paul for graduate school, and he loves it there), and my bright, about-to-be-college-educated daughter is about to (to Chicago, for her first real job). Both of them are aghast at Michigan’s sudden transformation into GlennBeckistan.

  12. MEDC
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    The State has responded with an ad campaign, explaining why it is that those who left should move back.

    Here’s the video:

    Here’s the text, minus the links:

    Home for the holidays? MichAGAIN wants you back for good!

    Connect with Michigan employers and explore career opportunities at holiday MichAGAIN employment event in Detroit

    Former Michiganders home for the holidays are invited to connect with Michigan employers and learn about opportunities to find a great job and come back to Michigan for good at the MichAGAIN and Quicken Loans Detroit Employment Event on Thursday, December 27.

    Representatives of growing Michigan businesses with jobs to fill will be on hand from 6 to 9 pm at Forty-Two Degrees North in the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about available positions with a number of successful Michigan companies including Quicken Loans, GE, Recruitment Management Consultants, and United Wholesale Mortgage. Detroit Employment Solutions, a Michigan Works! agency, also will be on site with information on job openings with a number of area employers, giving talented expatriates an opportunity to find a great job and move back to Michigan permanently.

    “We have a message for Michigan natives who moved away in difficult times: today’s Michigan is not the Michigan you left behind,” said Michigan Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Michael Finney. “Employers are hiring, new businesses are calling Michigan home, and the entrepreneurial spirit that built this great state is alive and well. Michigan needs your talent and experience to insure our businesses will continue to thrive and help grow the state’s economy.”

    The MichAGAIN program actively engages talented individuals with ties to Michigan at career networking events in cities around the country, encouraging them to return, remain, and invest in the state. Working in partnership with universities, businesses, and economic development partners throughout Michigan, MichAGAIN is reaching out to both new and seasoned professionals to let them know of the exceptional career advancement opportunities now available to skilled talent right here in Michigan.

    Today’s Michigan enjoys an excellent business climate and the state economy is growing at a record pace. Michigan offers:

    A growing economy

    Economic activity index is at a 10-year high (Comerica)
    6th highest economic growth rate in the nation (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)
    3rd-best in nation for high tech job growth (Bay Area Council Economic Institute)

    A competitive tax structure

    Businesses enjoy an 83% reduction in the state business tax (Forbes)
    7th-best corporate tax rate in the nation (Tax Foundation)
    World-class talent

    4th-largest high-tech workforce with more than 87,000 engineers and 70,000 R&D professionals (Michigan Economic Development Corporation)

    Resources for business

    $175 million toolkit for business attraction and economic gardening (Michigan Economic Development Corporation)

    “Now is the perfect time to find your way back to Michigan and take advantage of the new climate of growth and opportunity,” said Finney. “You can stay close to loved ones, enjoy our world-class recreational and cultural amenities, and build an exciting and lucrative career back home in Michigan.”

    The event is free but space is limited. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be provided. To register, visit here. To learn more about MichAGAIN, visit here. To read news coverage of a recent MichAGAIN event in Chicago, visit here.

  13. Ted
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m the author of the “Michissippi” article Mark quotes. Here’s another anecdote. I interviewed a recent U-M engineering graduate who had grown up in Detroit but moved to Chicago. I asked him whether he’d have an easier time finding his classmates in Detroit or Chicago. He looked at me as though I were dense. “Oh, here, absolutely,” he said. That interview is in my Rust Belt history, “Nothin’ but Blue Skies,” which looks at why Chicago succeeded while so many other cities in the region declined.

  14. Edward
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I like that the state is trying to lure back young workers by telling them about our corporate tax structure. How many of you moved to a place in your 20s because of the local corporate tax rate?

  15. Rai Harashi
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    The border idea is genius Mark. Find the money and make a billboard happen!

  16. Posted December 18, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    “Snyder says that young people don’t care that he recently signed right-to-work legislation into being…”

    I cared but I had also already left.

  17. watching the watcher
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Snyder is polling very poorly.

    This is from Public Policy Polling (

    “We now find Snyder as one of the most unpopular Governors in the country. Only 38% of voters approve of him to 56% who disapprove. There are only 2 other sitting Governors we’ve polled on who have a worse net approval rating than Snyder’s -18. He’s dropped a net 28 points from our last poll on him, the weekend before the election, when he was at a +10 spread (47/37).

    There’s not much doubt that it’s the right to work law and his embrace of other actions by the Republican legislature that are driving this precipitous drop in Snyder’s popularity. Only 41% of voters in the state support the right to work legislation, while 51% are opposed to it. If voters got to decide the issue directly only 40% of them say they would vote to keep the law enacted, while 49% would vote to overturn it. This comes on the heels of voters overturning Snyder’s signature emergency managers law last month. The simple reality is that Michigan voters like unions- 52% have a favorable opinion of them to only 33% with a negative one.”

  18. anon
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    what an amazing headline.

  19. LisaD
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Ha! As if the Michigan Chamber of Commerce represents anybody BUT the chicken processors (of all types…).

    I’d love to see a “refugee” camp, but one that also showed a vision or map of what we would like to see. I feel that sometimes that part is missing – we’re all so willing to protest against what isn’t right, and suggest a somewhat better option, but nobody is really painting a picture of how awesome things COULD be. A ProFEST, if you will… protesting against things only gets ya so far (and is exhausting).

  20. Eel
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Coming home after you’ve been living in the big city sucks.


  21. Meta
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    There’s no information on the quality of these people moving to Michigan, but it looks as though our population is growing slightly, after seven years of decline.

    After seven years of decline, Michigan’s population has increased, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday.

    The numbers rose by 0.07% — 6,559 people — from 2011 to 2012. The state now has about 9.88 million people. Despite the increase, however, Michigan’s population fell from eighth-largest to the ninth-largest, according to the data.

    Texas had the largest total increase, at 427,400, and North Dakota had the largest percentage increase at 2.17%. Two states — Rhode Island (-0.03%) and Vermont (-0.09%) — lost population.

    Although Michigan’s increase won’t make up for the drop of almost 172,000 people since 2004, population watchers say it’s good news.

    Read more:|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

  22. 734
    Posted January 8, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Clearly more college-educated women will choose to stay in the state now that we’ve passed the omnibus bill closing down women’s health care facilities. Smart women have too much on their minds to worry about their own reproductive health. They’d rather leave that in the hands of old white men in Lansing.

  23. Theodore
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Portland real estate agents should advertise on your site.

  24. Posted May 11, 2016 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Truer words have never been spoken.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Ted McClelland on fleeing “Michissippi” on December 24, 2012 at 12:44 am

    […] on fleeing “Michissippi”By Mark | December 24, 2012Here on the site last week, I twice invoked an article that appeared on Salon.con entitled Right-to-work bill: Michigan just gives up. Well, […]

  2. […] newly passed anti-union (“right-to-work”) legislation, and how it will likely impact working Michiganders, their employers, and the financial prospects of the state. There’s […]

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