US Hits 300 Million Mark, Detroit Falling Behind

If you haven’t already heard the United States statistically hit the 300 million people mark. According to the US Census Bureau, the US population grew by 5.3% between 2000 and 2005, yet Michigan only grew by 1.8%. During the same time, the city of Detroit decreased in population by 4.2% (that’s 9.5% below the national average!). Even Metro Detroit’s more wealthy county, Oakland County only increased in population by 1.7%. If it wasn’t for Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor) and Kent County (Grand Rapids), Michigan’s growth rate would probably be far less than 1.8%. Read past the jump for a resident’s take on this.

As a middle class college graduate, living in Michigan is difficult. In fact, it’s very difficult and it makes total sense that people are flocking out of this state almost as fast as they came in earlier in the 20th century. There are a million reasons for a guy like me to leave, and here they are:

1. Jobs. With my Big Ten Diploma, I could find a much higher paying job (we’re talking 50% greater) elsewhere in country. Particularly, the Sun Belt and Southern California. Demand for IT workers is insane out there, while it is very stagnant (at best) here. In fact, I know kids from college who skipped class everyday, didn’t make any contacts and still found a job very easily out west.

2. Taxes. Taxes in Detroit and Michigan are killer. Not just income tax, but small business taxes. The state (and the city) still pretend like the auto companies employ millions. They don’t and the local governments need to get real. Detroit needs to lose it’s tax on residents and businesses if it stands any chance to compete. Even many Unions have moved their Union Halls out of the city to avoid the nasty taxes. The politicians need to get creative – something I don’t see in a single politician this election season.

3. Art & Education. Frankly, there are only two places in Michigan where I think there is a *great* art and education scene. East Lansing and Ann Arbor. I live in Detroit’s “Cultural Center” but have a hard time finding art and culture that is affordable, unique and interesting. The state’s two Big Ten Universities really create a unique environment in those two towns that Wayne State just can’t re-create. Other places in the country have far more vibrant art and education scenes than Michigan can even dream of. Ever been to Cambridge, MA? What about New York City? What about Palo Alto, CA?

4. Culture of “It’s not my fault!”. – I get this vibe from many people in Metro Detroit, especially our supposed leaders. The finger pointing, the blame game, the lack of co-operation. You know what I’m talking about. The suburbs blame the city, the city blames the suburbs, the city blames the auto companies, the auto companies blame the state, the state blames the city, who turns around and blames the suburbs again. This has been happening since the 1950s and I don’t see any change. Killpatrick is still blaming L Brooks Patterson and vice versa. Both are still pointing fingers at the auto companies who seem increasingly oblivious to anything. When there was a crime problem in New York City, Mayor Guililani tried to change things and had a plan. Where’s Mr.Kilpatrick’s plan? More police layoffs? New pool in the Manoogian? As John Stossel would say, “Give me a break!”

I could probably go on all day about things like this. Just a lot of small things that add up to a lot of people (particularly educated people) leaving in droves out of the state and particularly the Metro Detroit area.

5 Comments so far

  1. Atul (unregistered) on October 17th, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

    Interesting comments.
    I’ve been living in the Detroit area for 12 years and as a midwesterner, I generally like it. There are many things I like about the area including ethnic food availability, overall diversity, low cost of living compared to big cities, the car culture, nice parks, manageable winters, generally low taxes for individuals. Some things that make me consider leaving are…

    – lack of jobs
    – dying economy with establishments closing all the time
    – too much of a gun culture, seems to correlate with conservative types
    – drivers who drive crazily and don’t use turn signals
    – crappy roads that lead to flat tires and suspension damage
    – few roads to ride bicycles on
    – a downtown that has a long long way to go


  2. Kim (unregistered) on October 18th, 2006 @ 4:16 pm

    Wow Tom, always a big heaping serving of negative.

    No doubt, Michigan is hurting right now, but why not be a part of the change? We are also hurting because many Michigan residents have this negative attitude. This negative attitude is the product of passive wait-for-someone-else-do-something-good-for-me-so-I-can-benefit-from-someone-else’s-hard-work mentality. We need more Michiganders with an “I can do it” attitude to see the opportunity that comes out of tough times.

    Maybe Michigan needs to adopt John F. Kennedy’s mantra “Ask not what Michigan can do for you, but what you can do for Michigan.” The changes we face are tough and quite uncomfortable, but until we Michiganders help ourselves, and until we are proud of what we do have in this state, what reason do we give to any business to want to invest here?

    There are so many reasons for employers to want to come here and there are so many reasons why the negative attacks on this state are misplaced feelings of doubt and anger due to the rough times we are facing…

    Let me count the ways:
    (1) Low cost of living
    (2) Best low-budget vacations spots (especially north of Lansing, i.e. the UP)
    (3) Best access to giant freshwater lakes, who needs salt water?
    (4) Diversity in thought, people, landscape (for those who venture north)
    (5) History, oh the history!
    (6) A city that drives the culture of the world – Detroit, Motown, autos, techno, highways
    (7) One of the best run governments according to some “Governing Magazine”

    and the list goes on but I figure, some things need to be discovered personally for Michigan-haters to get it.

    Finally for those really hating it in Michigan, maybe its not where you live, maybe its the person you live with, that being “number one”, the one you call “I” or “me.” Not to say there are no reasons to be frustrated, layoffs, job loss and the like is the unpleasant side to the current state of affairs (no punn intended).

    I hope that for those who share your negative feelings about Michigan try to find at least one positive for every negative that exists here, because soon enough the negatives should run out and the positives will continue ticking on.

    I love Michigan!

  3. Tom (unregistered) on October 18th, 2006 @ 5:23 pm

    Kim, I killed your double post. I think the site is running a little slow today so that might be the reason for the double post.

    Anyway, to reply to you – I’m not always Mr. Negative – I’m positive sometime too (see my posts from last week). I like to keep things honest and sometimes rant about things that are negative.

    Let’s be honest, it ain’t all sunshine and butterflies here, living here in Detroit. That’s why I like to bring these negative things up and talk about them. Sure, it probably sounds like I’m being a whiney, but we as (Metro) Detroiters need to talk about these problems. If we don’t our politicans and business leaders are never going to change. We can’t ignore our faults and pretend like they don’t exist.

    If I really didn’t want to be here, I probably wouldn’t be here and I definitely wouldn’t a metblogger about the city. To me, blogging isn’t trying to sell the city to anyone, it’s being real and telling things the way I (as a resident) see them.

  4. CKM (unregistered) on October 18th, 2006 @ 7:05 pm

    I love how everyone always bitches about Michigan’s taxes.

    You own a small business, Tom? You involved in any organizations that work on attracting new economy business to the city and state?

    I suggest you brief yourself on Michigan’s tax climate. Here – this link gives you a good working background:’

    And what revealing info: Michigan is a low tax state! Most tax indices include state and local taxes. When MI’s state and local taxes are taken into account, MI is is in the bottom of the list in terms of tax burden.

    The problem in MI is the attitude. The feeling of entitlement; the “oh this sucks, why can’t I get a job, I went to school, I passed my classes…” What MI needs are entreprenuers; people willing to take risks and willing to put it all on the line regardless of whether they’re entitled to do so or not.

  5. Tom (unregistered) on October 18th, 2006 @ 7:15 pm

    CKM, thanks for asking. In fact, I do own a business as does my family. My family’s business is in Livonia, but I run my own small business out of my apartment in Detroit. I don’t have time to spend in one of those “organizations.”

    It amazes me how many people get combative when you say anything negative about the city. As far as I know, this site isn’t a “We Love Detroit Site” – it’s a site with real people and real lives who talk about the way they feel about the city.

    Detroit has it’s ups and it has it’s downs why not have a dialog about it’s downs?

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