News Story

Can Whitmer council find a way to grow Michigan?

What we know so far about the council and who will serve on it

Michigan is facing a decline in population for the second year in a row, losing 40,000 people since 2020. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has finally recognized this problem, but instead of fixing the population leak at its source -- the anti-growth policies overwhelming Michigan -- she’s formed a council to study the issue.

The Growing Michigan Together Council, which was formed earlier this month by Executive Order 2023-4, will:

Identify concrete, data-driven, and evidence-based goals to grow the state’s population, improve educational outcomes from preschool through postsecondary education, attract and retain talent, and build long-term, sustainable infrastructure that meets the needs of the population;

Define the gap between Michigan and the best performing states on the goals identified by the Council; Identify specific short-term, medium-term, and long-term policies needed to close these gaps and meet the goals identified by the Council;

and, Analyze the effectiveness of existing programs and spending dedicated to achieving the goals identified by the council, and make recommendations on how to address any gaps between projected revenues and recommended expenditures.” 

In short, the council will be creating population-growing goals for the education system, talent market, and infrastructure. They will then implement policies to meet those goals, and look at the effects of their suggestions.

A press release from the governor’s office added that the council will be identifying a population goal for 2050, and also announced the nominations for members.

According to the Executive Order, except for seven specifically-designated voting memberships, “the remaining fourteen voting members should be selected to represent the interests of the private sector, labor, workforce development and talent, infrastructure, non-profit or philanthropy, and education. One such voting member should be under 25 years old.”

Out of the 28 total members mandated by the executive order 10 positions are now filled.

The council is co-chaired by Ambassador John Rakolta Jr., the chairman for the Detroit construction company Walbridge, and Shirley Stancato, who is on the board of governors for Wayne State University.

Representing the business sector:

  • Sandy Baruah, the president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber
  • Ahmad Nassar, CEO and creative director for Detroit 75 Kitchen

Representing education:

  • Brandy Johnson, the president of the Michigan Community College Association
  • Peter Spadafore, the executive director of the Michigan Alliance for Student Opportunity
  • José Reyes, executive director of NPower

Representing environmental concerns:

  • Lisa Wozniak, the executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters

And of course, union representatives:

According to the executive order: “The Council’s membership should reflect the socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, occupational, political, and geographic diversity of Michigan.” 

The governor is right to be addressing the population decline in Michigan, but will the growth council offer solutions? Or will it argue for higher taxes and higher government spending?

CapCon will be watching.

Caroline Vanchura is a Michigan Capitol Confidential intern. 

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.