News Story

A tale of two Michigan growth strategies

What Michigan’s growth council can learn from the Mackinac Center

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Grow Michigan Together Council published a set of recommendations last week that coincided — and largely conflicted — with the release of a new Mackinac Center study of best practices for growing state population. While the council’s recommendations are heavy on spending and taxes, they are almost devoid of ideas that have been shown to help states grow.

The Mackinac Center’s study reviewed almost 100 peer-reviewed academic and government publications to determine what factors do and do not contribute to population growth.

The Growing Michigan Together Council claims it reviewed expert presentations, debated ideas, used survey data, conducted hearings and held town halls.

The recommendations lean on a strategy popularly known as “place-making.” This is when a government tries to draw in new people by creating a community with more transit, businesses and attractions.

“Most large-scale place-oriented policies have had little discernable impact,” Hannah Kling, author of the Mackinac Center study, wrote, summarizing other research.

Kling finds that investing tax dollars in corporate welfare, transit, and housing in a community to make it more appealing is largely a waste of money because it does not attract the higher-skilled workers the governor wants to bring to Michigan.

The council’s recommendations for transportation are also unlikely to make a big difference, according to Mackinac Center research. The council suggests that the Legislature allow for the creation of regional transit authorities, and it claims to have research showing that younger people prefer public transportation over car ownership. But it does not cite the research.

Other Mackinac Center research concludes that using transportation infrastructure and copying practices of successful places to grow areas in Michigan will be largely ineffective. CapCon reported in December 2022 that Detroit’s QLine streetcar will receive taxpayer subsidies of $85 million over the next 17 years. On an average day in September, October and November of 2022, only 2,463 riders used the QLine, while 10 million taxpayers in the state subsidize it.

An August 2022 CapCon story reported only five of Amtrak’s 48 railway lines cover their operating costs. None of those lines run through Michigan. The state and regional railways already running in Michigan are subsidized by taxpayers.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.