Monday, September 13, 2010

More Michigan Corps

By way of follow up to Friday's post about the geography of domestic diaspora networking, some appreciation for the Michigan Corps initiative that unintentionally makes the same point I did:

In fact, Chicago boasts a huge population of Michigan expatriates. I'm convinced that the river runs green each March 17 not in honor of St. Patrick's Day but because of all the Spartans bleeding school colors during the NCAA basketball playoffs.

Michiganders — and Detroiters, specifically — have a reputation for hometown loyalty long after they flee. This, according to a pal of mine who, well, fled.

“I wanted to be an artist or a writer, so I needed to get out into what I perceived to be a more colorful world,” says Scott Adelson, who left Southfield for college and then travel and has decades later settled just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. “It wasn't long after I left, though, that I began to see Detroit as a rich and nuanced place. Now I appreciate the city's subtleties and shades of gray.” ...

... “Michigan's most strategic asset is its people, both here in Michigan and around the country,” said Rishi Jaitly, founder and CEO of Michigan Corps ( “Can any other state claim a national community so large, so sophisticated, and so loyal? Michigan Corps' role is to maximize the engagement level of this extraordinary community in the state's economic transformation.”

One thing that ties together Rust Belt states is the export of talent. Ironically, the destination most discussed is not somewhere in the Sun Belt. The gravity of Chicago is impressive. Various parts of Michigan and the Rust Belt have different migration relationships with Chicago. Lumping all these regional talent churn profiles into one state network is a mistake.

The hometown loyalty of expatriate Detroiters is impressive. A lot of Michigan's identity is tied to the fate of Detroit. Still, the city is not a proxy for the state. The infamous brain drain isn't the same everywhere. Grand Rapids retains much of its graduates:

On the plus side, Grand Valley State University, with campuses in downtown Grand Rapids and Allendale, boasts that 97 percent of its graduates stay in Michigan, either to work or to attend to graduate school here. That's far higher than colleges in the rest of the state: A recent Michigan Future survey of graduates showed about half flee Michigan within a year.

Lower tier cities don't export talent like the largest metros do. However, few of the biggest cities have a discernible diaspora. There is something special about hailing from a former manufacturing urban power. The area that qualifies as the homeland is large and includes other cities and even rural areas. But you needn't stop there. An economic corridor such as the TechBelt can bring millions of other expatriates into play.

1 comment:

Iris Bloom said...

"Since education makes a person more likely to leave your region, how do you justify your investment in human capital?"

I love and whole heartedly agree with your comments about loyalty and comradery; many states that have endured more than 3 economic, political and I dare say atheletic cycles of grandeur and auserity can claim alegiance and loyalty.

I believe that the choice to leave a region is mostly driven by short term opportunites and expected long-term promise. For decades the educational institutions and trade schools produced talent that were 100% consumed by local businesses in Michigan. From mid 50s to the late 70s, majority of the metro Detroit including Warren and Dearborn realized record growth primarily driven by the imported talent from all over the USA.

Michigan has been victimized by:
1) Globalization
2) Non-Diversification - which caused heavy dependency on the Automotive Industry.

The winds are changing - Michigan is becoming the technology and entertainment hub - and will soon emerge as a techno-research power house known for Medical, Electronics, Entertainment, and of coure Manufacturing prowess.