Michigan, to put it mildly, has a bit of a reputation problem as a great place to do business.
Consider the latest rankings from Forbes that puts the Great Lakes State at near the bottom of its annual Best States for Business list. Michigan is bringing up the rear in several comparative areas of the 2011 ranking including business climate, business costs and growth prospects.
In fact, one of the state’s few bright spots is in its quality of life ranking. And that is a leading edge that the state’s government and economic development leaders are using to their advantage.
As outlined in an article on StreetsBlog.org, the state’s communities are banding together to promote creation of vibrant, walkable urban centers that they see as being a key to new job growth and investment.
Why? As Dan Gilmartin, president of the Michigan Municipal League sees it, only by attracting top talent can communities stay competitive and that talent greatly desires a vibrant urban experience.
“We found that ‘talent’ (young, college educated, creative people, often entrepreneurs) demands great places. To them, an absolute prerequisite is a vibrant urban center that appeals on an emotional level. They want to live and work where they feel something — connected, challenged, inspired, excited, free and effectual. These are 21st century communities,” he said.
The Municipal League is taking its blueprint for urban revitalization to communities around the state, promoting entrepreneurship, multiculturalism, sustainable transportation and walkability among its key principles.
Will promoting livable and desirable urban centers and attracting creative talent alone solve the state’s formidable economic challenges? Doubtful. But the cohesive strategy to create and promote livable communities to attract entrepreneurial investment at least puts the state in the game.
There’s no doubt that attracting the right type of talent is a major driver in economic development decisions and that communities that promote their unique quality of place attributes have a better chance of attracting talent.
It’s too soon to say whether Michigan’s strategy will pay off but the state is certainly ahead of the game in making its case.