Last week we asked “Why did you move from Michigan” as well as “What if anything would bring you back?” and your responses were amazing. 200+ comments and replies through social media, and enough page views of the blog post that if each one were a person there would be enough to overflow Comerica Park.

For the benefit of our readers and leaders of the state (for instance, the Detroit Policy Conference is around the corner and big gathering of leaders on Mackinac Island will be here before you know it), we’ve pulled together the top threads we were able to spot among our readership, especially those who have left.

We’ll push on these issues on the blog over 2016 because if we lose this round of interest in Detroit and hand-in-hand the state, it’s really possible that the recovery will stop in its tracks, and for good. The truth is people are voting with their feet, and it’s not looking good not just for Detroit, but for Michigan.

Instead of grabbing the mic ourselves, we wanted to hand it to others. Some very clear threads emerged, and there were a lot of heartfelt, in-depth responses.

So Michigan leadership, elected and un-elected: Wake up and listen. The people have a lot to say. We’ve condensed some of it below.

On Entrepreneurship:

Heather Adams: I left Metro Detroit in 2007 when the local economy really started crashing. I had a small business, and soon found myself without a client base because everyone around me was losing their jobs, pensions, homes. I had little choice but to leave, and started over in Tampa Bay. Over the years I have watched in horror as Michigan became more like Florida; Right-to-work, no-fault, a state governing body attempting to shove Michigan back 30 years politically.

I miss the seasons, I miss the meadows and the dairy lands and the lakes. I miss Indian Summer bonfires and harvesting produce from my Victory garden. I miss walking barefoot in the grass, and I miss my friends. However, I would rather carve a life out for myself somewhere else than deal with the political environment of Michigan. My time in Florida is coming to an end, and I do have an opportunity to regrow my seedling business in Metro Detroit. I don’t think all my hard work would be worth it in the long run, especially if I am driven to leave again. I’m sorry Michigan, I just can’t take that chance.

Matt Schaar: After finishing grad school in Ann Arbor in 2010, I moved to Detroit. Most of my classmates who moved to other cities (NYC, Chicago, SF) now have roughly a 1-2 year head start on leadership positions in prominent companies simply because of the higher abundance of networking opportunities. I didn’t want to continue living in social and professional debt, so I moved to the coasts.

If I ever chose to start a company, the sheer volume of available capital and talent would make it extremely difficult to leave the Bay Area (or move to Michigan over, say, Boulder or Seattle). There are simply too many deficiencies in the marketplace in Metro Detroit to warrant going back.

On Jobs:

There were a lot – it seemed to be the plurality of comments – of one-line responses around jobs and needing to find a job. Here’s a more in-depth response.

Erin Marie: My husband and I moved to Nevada for a better life. I am a teacher & my husband is a geologist. We both have Master’s degrees & work experience (from yet another state we moved to for work). My husband was unable to find any work in his field & all I could find were jobs at charter schools in inner-city Detroit. Although challenging, I loved my students. The problem was the corrupt management companies running the schools. If you ask questions about where the money is going, you get laid off. I also interviewed for positions at public schools throughout the state; Traverse City (I cried for two days after I didn’t get that job), Sault Ste. Marie, Lansing. We finally got fed up & left the state. Now, I am an Instructional Specialist for a great district & my husband works for the Department of Environmental Quality for the State of Nevada. We bought a house last year, are paying our bills on time, & are enjoying a quality of life we weren’t permitted in Michigan. We love our home state, but at the same time, we kinda feel like Michigan chewed us up & spit us out. It makes me sad.

Competitive Amenities:

John Ray: I was born and raised in Detroit. Went to school in Ann Arbor and left for work. I actually came back to Detroit after living in Houston for a few years but left once again for better employment opportunities. In addition to a lack of varied job opportunities, no public transit, stupid expensive car insurance, no major retail, not walkable, and terrible city services and school system. There’s really no incentive to stay/move back with other cities offering so much more.

Fred Maples: I moved away to Fort Lauderdale about 8 1/2 years ago. Main reason I moved is because of the weather. But here has its problems too. Very expensive to live and jobs don’t pay well. I think about coming back to Michigan because it’s so affordable. The one thing I noticed about Michigan that draws away younger people is that a lot of the suburbs don’t have cool meetup spots or things to do. Downtown Detroit is looking better but if Michigan wants to keep young people it has to be more “hip and appealing.” I will say though the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Steve Bogdanski: Wanted to live in a nice urban area, but there wasn’t anything that fit in MI, so we moved to Columbus, OH which has a thriving IT sector, great downtown and diverse community and we have good schools (I have a 8month-old). I still miss MI, especially all the water, but would need a great opportunity to open up in a very pedestrian friendly urban area for me to move back.

On Lack Of Optimism:

Joe Droulliard: I left for the military in 2003 and soon realized I would never go back to Detroit; not even the nicest suburbs. I miss my friends, family, and sports culture but I can’t tolerate the general negativity and pessimism radiating from that city. There’s plenty of blaming and excuses about anything and everything. I like where I live in Connecticut which has the highest taxes in the US. I choose to be optimistic. It feels better.

On The Positive Side:

Cole Lamdin: If you are the typical college graduate, I could see why you would want to leave. There is simply no jobs here in Detroit. However, it is a really good place for people like myself, who are fortunate enough to have some money to do something with. Whats nice about Detroit is that I did something that cost $100,000 here but would cost $1,000,000 in most cities. Its a great place for people who have some money but not enough to really do anything with in another city. I run an airbnb, and I have countless guests who are trying to move here because suprisingly they got a job haha. Most of them are younger people who grew up here, went to a coast city, and are coming back!

In Conclusion:

Here’s where we’ll add our editorial two cents in. Yes, those in charge should work to fix the immediate crises of education in Detroit and start the repair of the damage done to Flint. That is obviously a priority.

But things need to change here in Michigan. Our readers outlined it well above. If we collaborate and work together, we as a state can turn the corner.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Let’s stop being insane as a region and as a state, and get on the winning track again.

Share this post