Detroit Regional Chamber > Detroit Policy Conference > Detroit’s First Word: Choosing to Stay in the Region

Detroit’s First Word: Choosing to Stay in the Region

January 12, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • The potential of Detroit is not lost upon Detroiters, and the investment of upskilling or reskilling the current residents of Michigan is just as important as attracting and retaining our young talent. 
  • Detroit has a certain “je ne sais quoi” that makes the Region stand out amongst other big cities for young professionals.

View the session recording below.

Clarinda Barnett-Harrison, Director of Skills at Michigan Central, and Stefen Welch, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion of the Detroit Pistons, shared why they stayed in Detroit during Detroit’s First Word at the 2024 Detroit Policy Conference. They shared their career experiences as young professionals in Detroit, what influenced them to remain in the Detroit Region, and the opportunities that will influence future young professionals to believe in Detroit as they did.  

Though not born in Detroit, Barnett-Harrison looks back fondly upon her childhood spent in Detroit and the experiences that shaped her. As she began her professional career in the Region in the early 2000s, she recalls the city’s energy that acted as a driving force for her and her colleagues, saying, “The things that people see [today], the beauty, the culture, the arts … that was never lost upon us.”  

Having been a life-long resident, Barnett-Harrison hadn’t realized how lucky she was, and that outside of Michigan, the same potential she saw and felt for Detroit was not shared. Rather, she acknowledges the untapped potential and sense of commitment and responsibility the community shares for the Region, sharing it through her work as an urban planner by trade.  

Born and raised in Detroit, Welch credits his participation in various young professional regional groups, which laid down a foundation for networking relationships that he leans on today. Because of this, he found himself rooted in the Region. His father also engrained in him at a young age that “there’s no place like Detroit,” and that made a lasting impression on him and kept him in Detroit. 

Both echoed that they had been offered career opportunities that would have led them out of state but ultimately stayed. This shared experience has influenced them to become advocates for the attraction and retention of young professionals in the area. Specifically, through Barnett-Harrison’s work at Michigan Central, she sees first-hand community members who are reskilled and upskilled to experience growth in Michigan’s budding industry of mobility. Welch, on the other hand, highlighted the programs set in place by the Pistons that show their investment in the young people of Detroit, such as the scholarships available to students at Northwestern High School. 

Related: Young Professionals Wanted for Regional Expertise Connections, Ambassadorships