Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference > The Importance of Racial Equity in Michigan’s Population Growth

The Importance of Racial Equity in Michigan’s Population Growth

May 29, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • The Growing Michigan Together Council’s report serves as a foundation to growing Michigan’s population and economy.
  • The business community and society must dispel the idea that investing in minority businesses comes at the detriment to other businesses or that bettering communities is a partisan issue.
  • Intentionally creating a small business-friendly climate is vital to thriving communities.


Population Growth is a Non-Partisan Issue

Hilary Doe, Chief Growth and Marketing Officer at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, opened the discussion with how the Growing Michigan Together Council came to be and how the report’s findings laid the foundation for growing Michigan’s population and how getting residents’ buy-in is vital to its success.

Through traveling the state to hear firsthand from communities how they envision growth to look in their area, she said, “what I’ve noticed in common everywhere is a rejection of ‘do nothingness’ – a real recognition that we’ve got to get something done here… These sorts of population declines affect our public school enrollment, affect our quality of life, and have implications on our ability to continue investing in the kinds of communities that we all want to build together.”

By hearing from Michiganders instead of a general poll, Doe shared that both “red counties and blue counties” gave vital input that influences how support and resources are allocated to shape each community authentically.

Andre M. Perry, Senior Fellow at Brookings Institute supported this.

“The work to maintain or even grow populations [goes] beyond a political season,” he said. “We’re constantly focused on what’s happening now and what’s in front of us. Think bigger.”

Support to Communities Doesn’t Come at the Cost of Detriment to Others

By seeking to address Michigan’s population crisis through an inclusive vision for communities, it has welcomed attention to the racial disparities in traditional support and resources that are performative and lack longevity. Charity Dean, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Michigan Black Business Alliance, addressed this head-on, highlighting how it has recognized that small businesses deserve more opportunities rather than just acknowledging the dissonance.  

“We can support small businesses in the ways that we support other industries,” she said calling for actionable support for small businesses versus just acknowledging disparities. “We call those out within [government] to do something about it and we don’t just become experts on problems – so much so that we talk about the problem in lieu of a solution.” 

Perry agreed, saying, “that as far as [bettering the] conditions for Black-owned small businesses go, it creates better conditions for overall quality of life for the entire community … we need to break this mindset that investing in one group is to the detriment of someone else.” 

“Understand that if you really want to increase population [and] GDP, all these things you have to invest in the people who need it most,” he said. Doing so builds a solid foundation for the communities that Michiganders desire and will undoubtedly become pivotal to attracting new residents. 

Intentionality is the Key to Population Growth

The three main components to successfully growing Michigan’s population include good governance, implementation, and inclusion. As politicians come and go with the election cycles, all panelists agreed that keeping focused on the foundation of change will lead to communities that not only retain but attract residents by supporting the uniqueness of each community.

“Growth look[s] different in the UP than it looks in Grand Rapids, than it looks in Kalamazoo, [and] than it looks in Detroit and so that unique offering and that unique story will be different in those places … we need to their [stories] so that … people can see themselves in [these communities].”

This session was hosted by W.K. Kellogg Foundation.