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Exploring the Talent Dividend in Southeast Michigan

By Greg Tasker

The urgent need to improve Southeast Michigan’s talent pool is reaffirmed in a study conducted by Georgetown University that shows that by 2020, at least 65 percent of all jobs will require some form of postsecondary education and training beyond high school. Nationally renowned economist Joe Cortright argues that retaining and growing the number of educated adults with a postsecondary degree is critical to a region’s economy. A 1 percentage point increase in the four-year college attainment rate is associated with about a $1,250 per year increase in average incomes in a metropolitan area. 

On Why Young, Educated Talent Matters 

“We are increasingly in a knowledge economy. Your success as an organization, as public-private partnerships, as communities depends on having smart, creative, innovative people.” 

Cortright’s research shows that U.S. cities that have the highest levels of per capita income also have the best-educated populations. There is also an education spillover effect. Living in a better educated region means workers have more job opportunities, higher wages and lower unemployment.  It also improves public services, infrastructure and other amenities. 

 On Detroit’s Economic Prosperity 

 “Detroit is starting from a tougher spot than most other places. The important thing to remember is to celebrate the successes you’ve already had: The city’s population is not declining anymore and things are visibility turning around. The big challenge is to figure out what the next iteration of Detroit looks like and get everyone involved.” 

 On Feeling Connected  

 “You must do a great job educating your children. Education is important to get even the minimum skills needed to do well in a knowledge-based economy. There’s a broader community task: How do we build communities where everyone fills connected and can find their ways to better education and better jobs and so on?” 

 On Building Places Young Talent Want to Live 

 “I think there is a substantial difference among metropolitan areas in the United States in how robust their urban core areas are. It’s not about making suburbs better. It’s about how do we make the urban core better. It’s shared space for everyone. The question is how do we transform the vibrancy of all the people who live in the community?” 

 On Detroit’s Selling Points 

 “Every city is a little bit different. I don’t think the answer is to look at another city and see how we can be more like that city. A lot of times people get fixated on what other cities have done that’s successful. What worked in places like Nashville, Portland or Austin doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Detroit is its own story.” 

 Greg Tasker is a metro Detroit freelance writer. 

 Data for Chart 

San Francisco: 48.5% adults ages 25 and older with a four-year degree or higher, $84,675 per capita income 

Seattle: 42% adults ages 25 and older with a four-year degree or higher, $64,553 per capita income 

 Boston: 46.9% adults ages 25 and older with a four-year degree or higher; $70,157 per capita income 

 Detroit: 30.4% adults ages 25 and older with a four-year degree or higher; $58,589 per capita income