Taking talent seriously in Lansing

“Either we get younger and better educated or we get poorer” is the slide we close all our presentations with. It captures our core belief that talent is the asset that matters most to Michigan’s future prosperity. And that because recent college graduates are the most mobile group in the country that where they decide to live and work after college will go a long way towards determining the future of the Michigan economy. Still with most Michiganians a hard sell.

But not in metro Lansing. A terrific new report from Capital Area Michigan Works! on behalf of the region’s impressive Talent Infusion Strategy Team and Advisory Committee touches all the bases needed to make retaining and attracting young talent a regional priority. Their work is worth checking out by Michigan’s other big metros. The authors understand the strategic importance of young talent. As they write: The decline of the 25- to 34-year-old group should be alarming to us. Moreover, we are not a fast growing metropolitan center overall and the key to becoming one is attracting young people.

The report includes a detailed data analysis. How has metro Lansing done from 2000-2010 in terms of concentrating young talent? Their honest assessment: not too well. And particularly not well compared to other regions across the country with a similar sized population and a major university.

Just collecting the data is impressive. But the report continues with a description of the work the region has done researching what young talent is looking for when they make a location decision. As they write the bottom line is: it’s all about placemaking! Most of the group believes engaging young talent is very much about creating a robust and vibrant place: Greater Lansing should continue to work on all the things that make the region a better place to live. In other words, if we make it a better place to live, “they will come,” and they will stay. Expanding the arts and culture scene, improving the region’s appearance and amenities and providing a lively entertainment culture are a few examples. Further, creating a pipeline to jobs and career opportunities is equally important …

One particularly creative initiative is the effort to make metro Lansing a place where Chinese students want to stay after college. The report highlights: … international placemaking efforts got under way when it was learned that there were few opportunities in the region that represented the street culture so familiar to Chinese students at MSU. As a result, Gillespie Group launched the China Creative Space, a proposed creativity center to create an atmosphere for cross-cultural collaboration and innovation among students, entrepreneurs and the community at large.

Wow! A Michigan region that has organized a Talent Infusion Strategy Team, done a detailed analysis of the region’s success in retaining and attracting young talent, researched the location preferences of young talent and is working to make Chinese students welcome. Metro Lansing is on the right track.

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