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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