News Story

Whitmer asks for ideas to grow Michigan

Governor’s new Chief Growth Officer has a heavy task: Only Washington, D.C., has grown more slowly than Michigan

Why does Michigan continue to shrink, and what needs to change to make it grow? Those questions will be the basis of a new commission announced Thursday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which will study and recommend ways the Pleasant Peninsula can reverse a decades-long trend of shrinkage.

Whitmer also announced Thursday the hiring of Hilary Doe as Michigan’s first Chief Growth Officer. The Growing Michigan Together Council was created by Executive Order 2023-4.

“For much of the 20th century, people came to Michigan seeking opportunity,” reads Whitmer’s order. “Our population and incomes grew faster than the rest of the country, supporting strong schools, world-class infrastructure, and vibrant communities.

“Michigan’s population growth began to slow in the 1970s, and in the 21st century, Michigan grew more slowly than all but one state.”

Michigan has the same number of representatives in the U.S. House, 13, as it did a century ago, per the U.S. Census Bureau. Michigan’s peak of power in Washington came in the 1960s and 1970s, when the state had 19 members in the U.S. House. Every state has two senators.

For the last two years, more people have died in Michigan than were born. And for two decades now, governors have groaned about the brain drain, as Michigan’s college graduates find their futures elsewhere.

Nothing the state has tried has reversed the outflow of young, educated people. Not Cool Cities, not film incentives, not Pure Michigan commercials.

The growth council will seat 28 members. Governor’s advisory councils can be created through executive action, as happened Thursday.

John Rakolta, a Republican donor and chairman of Walbridge, will co-chair the commission alongside Shirley Stancato, a Democrat. Rakolta painted a bleak picture in remarks quoted by The Detroit News.

"Our state has been stagnant for over 30 years in terms of population," Rakolta told reporters at the Mackinac Policy Conference. “Our demography is stagnant. We are 50th out of 51 states and Washington D.C. in terms of population growth, and that has to change."

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.