Two Steps in the Right Direction

Governor Granholm and the lame duck legislature in December enacted an important change in Michigan transportation policy. They are to be commended. The new policy, which goes by the name complete streets, finally takes away the long standing policy that the preeminent mode of transportation is driving. Now transportation officials must consider pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders along with cars and trucks. (John Gallagher in the Freep provides an excellent overview of the new law.)

What is this doing in a blog about the Michigan economy? Everything! In a world where economic growth is being driven by where mobile talent chooses to live and work, communities that are providing the ability to live without driving are winning. Increasingly young mobile talent is concentrating in neighborhoods that are characterized by walkable urbanism. As we have written previously, all too often in Michigan transportation officials have been a major barrier to that kind of development. Insisting that roads be designed for the quickest movement of cars and trucks. Hopefully, no more.

The second important development is the announcement by Wayne State, Henry Ford Health System and the DMC that they will provide substantial assistance for their employees to purchase or rent housing in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood. This is a major component of the Hudson-Webber Foundation 15 by 15 initiative. An effort to double the number of young professionals living in Detroit by 2015.

To me it is the most important economic development initiative in the region and possibly the state. As our new Governor stressed during his campaign the state needs a successful Detroit to work. And the anchor of a successful Detroit is its ability to retain and attract young talent. That means a vibrant Midtown and other near downtown neighborhoods in the city. These are the kind of neighborhood across the country where young talent – before they have kids – are increasingly concentrating.

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