This Week on One Detroit:

Michigan’s population is at a crossroads. Ranked 49th out of 50 states in terms of population growth, Michigan has been struggling to attract new people and retain its residents, and the implications for the state’s economy and prosperity could be dire. According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 43,000 people moved out of Michigan between 2020-2022. 

At the 2024 Detroit Policy Conference, business leaders and policymakers convened to tackle Michigan’s shrinking population and discuss potential solutions. Former Ambassador John Rakolta Jr. and Shirley Stancato, Wayne State University Board of Governors Member, served as chairs of the conference, which hosted conversations around the future workforce, education, creating vibrant communities, and the city of Detroit’s efforts to attract new residents.  

Rakolta and Stancato also led the bipartisan Growing Michigan Together Council, a coalition announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the 2023 Mackinac Policy Conference. The Council submitted its recommendations for enhancing Michigan’s appeal and vitality to the governor in December. One Detroit contributors Stephen Henderson, Nolan Finley and Zoe Clark hear from business and policy leaders in the region about attracting talent and businesses to Michigan. 

Michigan ranks second-last in U.S. population growth. Fmr. Ambassador John Rakolta, Jr. explains why.

Can Michigan flip the script and begin to grow its population again? One Detroit contributor Nolan Finley, who is also editorial page editor of the Detroit News, sat down with former Ambassador John Rakolta, Jr., co-chairman of the Growing Michigan Together Council, at this year’s Detroit Policy Conference to talk about where Michigan stands when it comes to growing its population.

They discuss the four drivers of growing the state’s population. According to Rakolta, growing Michigan’s population in the short term seems unlikely, but the state should still focus on increasing productivity and prosperity. One way to do so is by investing more in the educational quotient of the entire state and unifying labor and management in the workforce to increase the state’s readiness for embracing innovation, Rakolta said. He also talks about what it would take to implement these improvements.

Upgraded education system needed to help grow Michigan’s population Skillman Foundation CEO Angelique Power says

What role does PreK-12 and higher education play in growing Michigan’s population? One Detroit contributor and American Black Journal host Stephen Henderson sat down with Angelique Power, President & CEO of The Skillman Foundation, to talk about the state of investment in education in Michigan and how that relates to growing Michigan’s population. Power was selected to participate in the PreK-12 Education workgroup of Governor Whitmer’s Growing Michigan Together Council 

According to Power, public education in Michigan has been underfunded for more than 20 years, and based on her participation in the council, many are saying an upgrade to the system is overdue. Power shared with Henderson that one of the PreK-12 education workgroup’s recommendations made to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in December was for a more cohesive vision for education in the state where decision-making is more centralized. 

Henderson and Power also discuss the importance of keeping opportunity and access at the forefront of education, defining equitable education systems as it relates to providing students the resources they need, and the importance of having adequate funding to implement these changes. 

Toronto transplant and Integral CEO Ashok Sivanand shares why Detroit became home for him and his business

Ashok Sivanand moved to Detroit from Toronto in 2016 to start the digital transformation business, Integral, after visiting the city while working on a project with Ford to build an innovation lab, FordLabs. “When I came here, I realized that what we hear about Detroit and what I got to experience here are completely different,” said Sivanand. Though he’d heard recommendations about which suburbs to live in, he ultimately found himself drawn to living in the city. 

One Detroit contributor and Michigan Public Political Director, Zoe Clark, sat down with the Integral CEO to talk about what drew him to not only work in the city but also make Detroit his home. Sivanand talks with Clark about the sense of community he found in Detroit and the opportunities to grow as a member of the community.  

“I think if there are folks who really get those dopamine hits from going out and volunteering or serving, and you’re not sure how to do it in the big cities you live…this is a great place to do it, where there’s a lot of history, and we can be part of a lot of (the) future, too,” Sivanand said.  

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