Seattle Is Closer To Detroit Than You Think

At least we know that it is not weather that is keeping Detroit from being a top destination for young talent.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the #1 “Next Hot Youth Magnate City” is Seattle, even with its 226 cloudy days per year (versus 185 in Detroit).

Interestingly, metro Seattle is also not significantly younger than metro Detroit.  The portion of the population that is between 25 and 34 in metro Seattle is 25% versus 22% in Detroit.  We have just about as many young people in Detroit, proportionally, as Seattle.

In terms of education, metro Detroit has almost as many young people with college degrees as Seattle.  Metro Detroit has roughly 140,000 college graduates that are between 25and 34 versus 160,000 in metro Seattle.  Yes, Seattle is somewhat smaller than Detroit, but the total is similar and both have critical mass.

So, if people in metro Detroit have similar weather, youth, and college degrees – why isn’t it a magnet?

It is a matter of distribution – where the educated young people are within the metro area.  In Seattle, 40% of educated young people aged 25-34 are choosing to live downtown.  In Detroit, it is only 8%.  That is the biggest difference between these two cities – the educated talent in Seattle are congregating downtown rather than in the suburbs.  The same holds true for other hot magnate cities mentioned in the article.

The upside is that educated young talent does exist in Michigan in significant number – just not where it would ideally be and where it would prefer to be.    So, the challenge is how to create a downtown Detroit where 40,000 of the current educated young people in Michigan would want to live.  If we can, our numbers (and weather) look almost identical to Seattle.  No easy task, but absolutely critical.

For some ideas on how, check out a Michigan Future report on How Detroit Can Attract The Millennial Knowledge Worker.

*All population data taken from American Fact Finder at US Census – 2007

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Your report on how Detroit can attract Millennial Knowledge Workers should be printed in pocket size editions and given to every employee of the city. It provides a clear, data-driven assessment of the city’s most pressing needs and direct, evidence-based solutions for their redress.

  2. As a former Michigan resident ( I lived and worked in Greater Detroit area for 9 years) who currently lives in Seattle, I can tell you what can be the cause and done to improve.

    1. Detriot has a bad reputation to begin with. People across have asked if “Detroit is still the murder capital of the world”, “blue collar workers around”, “gloomy and depressing place”, “dangerous”
    On the contrary, things have changed. There are cities much worse and dangerous. Detroit may be better than Atlanta, Oakland, NY(?)
    What else, besides the rundown neighborhoods can be shown in pictures?

    2. The last 2 decades have seen a large migrant population. Greater Detroit is as cosmopolitan and diverse as any big city. The rest of the nation does not seem to know it.

    3. Auto industry seems to have always attracted the “not very good”. There has been lack of good leadership in the auto industry. Corruption is high in the mid management level, working in the auto industry is very stressful. The work culture should changed somehow! I have been to places where they compromise quality for other benefits! There should be incentives for good workers, better technology, knowledge sharing. A higher authority that will hold the reins and not let the kids deviate from the learning path, remind them of mistakes learned, teach them the importance of quality, work ethics. Employees of General Motors and Chrysler depend on vendors and suppliers more than they should. I wonder what they do for a living and how do they manage to keep their jobs?

    4. Most of the natives of Michigan are not progressive minded as the people in the NorthWest. The migrant population seems to be huddled as well, they are probably following same behavior as the the original immigrants. Detroit and Livonia share a border, but there needs to be better integrity, tolerance, understanding. Insecurity, selfishness very high! Through lack of knowledge of environment/sustenance issues.

    5. Lack of other industries. The state government should have worked on this when the auto industry was on a steep decline, probably more seriously during the last decade. The very few other corporations that employ are still under the auto-influence. There is little surprise, since the same group of people rotate. Bring fresh faces, new ideas!

    6. To end the note, Seattle seems to be headed on the same path. MicroSoft has to learn from the General Motors, although they may not hold the monopoly much longer, the real estate in Greater Seattle depends on the employees being able to stick around.

    I really hope Detroit will be better!

  3. I lived in Seattle for several years recently before returning to Michigan. Seattle has a big industrial base in Boeing. Boeing has not slipped as far as our automakers, but it is slipping. Microsoft is what attracts creatives to Seattle.

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