Print Friendly and PDF

Editorial: Metro Detroit among nation’s growth leaders

From The Detroit News

Dec. 9, 2015

If we’re starting to feel good about the economic revival of Metro Detroit, it’s for good reason. Things are improving in the region, and the numbers prove it.

The progress is not just concentrated in the central city. While Detroit’s comeback is well documented, the 11 counties that make up southeastern Michigan are all participating in a healthy rebound. That’s according to the annual State of the Region report just released by the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Here are some highlights:

  • In Detroit, $3.4 billion in investment and development has been announced. That should create thousands of new jobs over the next five years, starting with construction work. The biggest piece is the new Red Wings arena project, already underway downtown.
  • Real Gross Domestic Product growth outpaced the national average by seven percentage points between 2009 and 2014. The Detroit region ranked second behind Dallas in GDP growth among its peer metro areas.
  • Private sector employment growth is third strongest in the nation, outpacing the national average by 4.4 percentage points.
  • Per-capita income is also climbing; Detroit, with 13 percent growth, is second behind Pittsburgh. The growth is spread across all industries.
  • Office and commercial property occupancy rates are up, as is foreign investment.

So it’s good news on a number of fronts, and projections are for it to continue.

But there worrisome areas. As always, education is an embarrassment.

Just 28 percent of the region’s adults have a college degree, compared to 43.4 percent in Boston and 38 percent in both Minneapolis and Seattle.

Metro Detroit and the state will have a difficult time keeping pace with faster growing places unless educational attainment improves. That starts with finally getting public K-12 schooling right, and that remains an elusive goal.

Still, there are blocks to build on. For example, the University of Michigan ranks as the 4th best public university in the nation.

And the region has a wealth of engineering talent, ranking No. 1 in total engineers at 90,000. Available talent is an important factor in attracting new businesses.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs grew by 15 percent over five years. These are generally high-paying positions, and the region now has 300,000 workers in STEM jobs. It will need more of these skilled workers. Gov. Rick Snyder must continue to push that agenda item.

Another area of concern is entrepreneurship. Metro Detroit ranks 36th in the Kauffman Index, which measures entrepreneurial opportunity and start-up density. These are businesses that create jobs in local communities, and they need more encouragement.

After years of dismal assessments of the region’s prospects, it is worth celebrating evidence of the turnaround. May it continue.