Detroit Drives Michigan

The press coverage of the likely change from Detroit Renaissance to Michigan Renaissance included quotes from the organization’s leadership that they believed that if you fix Michigan, you fix Detroit. We respectfully disagree!

Is it Illinois that is driving the Chicago economy or Chicago that is driving the Illinois economy? What about Minneapolis and Minnesota, Seattle and Washington State, Boston and Massachusetts (not to mention New Hampshire), New York City and New York State (and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey), etc.?

I think the answer is obvious. Most prosperous states are anchored by even more prosperous big metropolitan areas. And those successful big metros have a vibrant central city. Central cities matter more than ever because they are the place of choice for many college educated Millennials. And they are increasingly the asset that matters most in building a broad knowledge-based economy where most of the good-paying jobs of the future will be located.

So the lesson we all need to learn in Michigan is that it highly unlikely that we can have a prosperous state economy without metro Detroit working and for metro Detroit to succeed its needs Detroit to work.

So the likely Michigan Renaissance agenda – low taxes and small government – is the wrong priority. As Rick Haglund of the Booth newspapers points out in a recent column (click here) there is no evidence from around the country that those kind of policies create prosperous states. Rather the priority should be creating a quality of place – anchored by vibrant central cities – where talent want to live and work.

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