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John Hennessy III,

Michigan’s Urban and Metropolitan Strategy

Posted by Content Coordinator on Monday, February 27th, 2012


Executive Summary

The right strategy for Michigan will help the state achieve three goals essential to the health of its cities, its metropolitan areas, and the state as a whole:

  • Michigan strengthens the link between innovation and manufacturing to increase regional exports and attract global investments.
  • Michigan supports strong regional systems to train existing workers and welcome new ones to fuel economic growth.
  • Michigan makes targeted investments that leverage distinct assets in urban and metropolitan areas to transform regional economies.

Why a Metropolitan Strategy?

We were asked to create an urban strategy for Michigan. The kind of energy strategy that’s most likely to strengthen urban areas in a global, networked, rapidly changing economy will focus on:

  • The right assets. Traditional urban policy has focused exclusively on the physical and market failures of cities, but urban areas will achieve better economic recovery when they build on their strengths – their essential, economic reason for being and their unique mix of institutions, amenities, and opportunities.
  • The right geography. Metropolitan areas are the true units in the global economy, and cities are one economic node within metropolitan areas. Metropolitan prosperity drives city prosperity. There are reasons to pay particular attention to central cities within a metropolitan context: central city decline and wide disparities between city and suburban prosperity are associated with slower regional income growth, and job gains in a central city have a positive effect on housing prices in the suburbs. But fundamentally, the economy tends to be organized around metropolitan areas.
  • The right strategies. Understanding the economic assets of urban areas and their metropolitan context drives the policy recommendations that help leverage the special assets of urban and metropolitan areas in Michigan. In some cases, these assets are widely shared, and in other cases, they are unique to particular metropolitan areas.

Michigan’s assets are concentrated in it’s metropolitan areas. The state’s top 14 metropolitan areas are home to 82 percent of the population, 84 percent of the jobs, 86 percent of state GDP, 85 percent of exports, 91 percent of science and engineering jobs, and 85 percent of postsecondary-degree holders.

Michigan’s metropolitan areas are particularly strong in critical elements for the next economy. This next economy will be oriented toward innovation, particularly in the manufacturing sector, to spur growth through ideas and their deployment.

The next economy will demand and reward global engagement, including exports to take advantage of growing global demand, and the ability to attract global investment. The next economy will be powered by low-carbon technology, processes, and products. And, the next economy will provide greater opportunities for workers at all skill levels, including workers who want to immigrate to Michigan.

Michigan’s metropolitan areas are positioned to succeed in the next economy because of their strong history in manufacturing and innovation, significant share of Michigans existing export economy, high concentration of global talent and investment, and substantial inroads on the production side of low-carbon economy.

  • Michigan’s metropolitan areas are where innovation prowess meets manufacturing experience. Ninety-tech industry employment and 80 percent of its advanced manufacturing jobs are in metropolitan areas. Six Michigan metropolitan areas had a higher number of patents per 1,000 workers from 2001 to 2010 than the average U.S. metropolitan area.
  • Metro innovation and production strength shows itself particularly in aspects of the clean economy. Detroit ranks fourth among large metropolitan areas in electronic vehicle technology specialization, and Grand Rapids ranks second for green consumer products in production and development. Jackson and Bay City are especially strong in innovations in biofuel and wind energy technology. Seven of Michigan’s metropolitan areas meet or exceed the national average for intensity of clean jobs.
  • Michigan’s metropolitan areas are also exceptional at producing goods and providing services that are in demand abroad. Of the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, Detroit is first in terms of export intensity (the share of its output that is exported). Grand Rapids ranks tenth among the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas in terms of export intensity. Ten of Michigan’s 14 metro areas are more export-intense than the U.S. average.
  • Michigan’s metropolitan areas are home to strong and emerging industry clusters and powerful anchor institutions like universities, medical centers, and research institutes.

Michigan also has some hurdles to overcome.

  • The growth of the working-age population in 13 out of 14 metropolitan areas is slower than the national average, and the working-age population in cities in particular has low levels of educational attainment. As of June 2011, nine of Michigan’s 14 metro areas ad an unemployment rate above the national average of 9.3 percent.
  • Michigan’s metropolitan areas have very few foreign-born residents, although those foreign-born residents show impressive educational attainment when compared to immigrants nationwide. Foreign-born residents in 12 of Michigan’s 14 metros, including smaller metros such as Saginaw, Niles, Monroe, and Bay City, have rates of graduate or professional degree attainment higher than those of foreign-born residents nationwide.
  • Many of Michigan’s metropolitan areas do not leverage the power of their anchor institutions and the clusters of firms throughout the metros so that these anchors and clusters spark additional job creation, innovation, and distinctive, vital physical environments.
  • Michigan’s state leaders have tended to spread funds for revitalization or economic growth evenly around the state, rather than focusing on game-changing investments in a small number of places.

Download full report (PDF): Michigan’s Urban and Metropolitan Strategy

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