Why? Because the whole Metro Detroit area is a black hole of despair and self-pity, and full of people who refuse to acknowledge, or can’t see, the basic problems (hint: Kwame is only a small part of the problem). The whole state has a lot of problems, including but not limited to, a city that leads the nation in crime, poverty, and stds, is in the top five for obesity, and for being sedentary, and trails the nation in high school graduation rates. Furthermore, Michigan is one of only two states to lose population in 2007, an exodus made up in large part by the highly educated and highly desirable 18-35 year old demographic. The Metro area has a dismal public transportation system. The state ranks 39th in terms of education level, is the worst for job hunting, has the nation’s highest unemployment rate, has an over dependence on one industry (that just happens to be on a steep decline), is last in the nation in entrepreneurial activity, and my own personal peeve, an inability to get a smoking ban in place. The list could go on and on.
I’m constantly told, “you’re just the kind of person we need here…” Of course, but so are most of the people who are leaving. That’s because anyone with an education, any ambition, and a desire to live in a healthy, livable community either has left, will leave, or wants to leave. Michigan’s going to end up with exactly what it wants, an unmotivated, dependent, overweight, undereducated, lazy, aging, and largely unhealthy population. I want no part of that.
I’m also told, Michigan, and Detroit in particular will “turn around.” Uh…when? I’m in my mid 30’s. How much time do you think I have? Detroit’s had many “renaissances,” and guess what, it’s just as bad off, if not worse than it was 20 years ago. The Renaissance Center opened in 1981, at just the start of the previously worst downturn in the state’s economic history. “Detroit’s not bad,” I’m constantly being told. Sure, start reading this from the top again, and then go drive south on Livernois from the northern end of Detroit, and then head back north on Schaeffer. Tell me Detroit’s not that bad. Maybe that tiny area near the stadiums and the Fox theater is not that bad, but Detroit’s a really big rotten donut.
Michigan’s still largely dependent on the auto industry. Even though we’ve known for more than 20 years that manufacturing was on the decline in this country, we continued to rely almost solely on one of the most precariously positions manufacturing companies in the world for our economic well being. We were content to sit around and take what we could while we could. Instead we should have been looking to the future. Anyone who thought that line workers making upwards of $100,000 a year, or laid off workers being paid 95% of their income or, being paid to “search for jobs, or be retrained,” was actually a sustainable way to run a business had their head in sand. If the Big 3 survive, they’ll be much different. The workers will be paid less, and there will be less workers. The worst for Michigan is probably still to be felt. The transition to whatever comes next is going to be painful for Michigan.
Detroit, and Michigan have some hard times ahead. So does the rest of the country, but Michigan’s been leading the pack on the way down, and never seems to lead on the way up. Michigan’s not investing much in the future, and instead continues to dwell on the past. It’d be easy to blame the state’s leadership, but of course, they’re elected by the populace.
It’s been easier to get offers for high paying, quality jobs out of the state than in it. According to Richard Florida, amongst others, the new economy jobs and workers have been and continue to migrate to the centers of the new economy. Just as workers migrated to Detroit to work on the assembly lines of the then burgeoning auto industry, workers are heading to cities, and regions, around the world that provide them with what they need, namely opportunities. Michigan and Detroit just don’t offer those opportunities, at least not in large enough numbers.
So we left. What else could we do? It’s not that we loved the area. The only thing keeping us in town was family, friends, and our work. Well, family and friends don’t pay the mortgage, put money in savings, or provide to many opportunities, and the work was slowing down dramatically. Seems everyone with a job was just hanging on for dear life, and the employers knew it. Low pay, long hours, and a miserable work life. It just isn’t worth it.