Detroit Regional Chamber > Detroit Policy Conference > Rakolta: Michigan Will Be Lucky to Be Same Size in 2050

Rakolta: Michigan Will Be Lucky to Be Same Size in 2050

January 11, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Following his work on the Growing Michigan Together Council, Rakolta now suggests the state should focus on increasing per capita rather than population growth before 2050. 
  • Michigan appears too divided to do business in, according to businesses that are no longer interested in investing in the state. 
  • The business community must hold the government accountable for its actions, or lack thereof. 

View the session recording below.

The Chair of the Growing Michigan Together Council and 2024 Detroit Policy Conference, John Rakolta Jr., delivered a sobering message during the Conference: Michigan very likely could get smaller in the coming decades, thanks to declining birth and death rates, immigration slowing down, and current resident migration to other states.

“There’s going to be a long time before we’re going to be able to reverse those tendencies,” said Rakolta during a one-on-one conversation with The Detroit News’ Editorial Page Editor Nolan Finley. “By 2050, we will be lucky to be the same size state we are today.”

Given the uphill climb Michigan faces, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates called for an immediate focus on increasing per capita income rather than population growth, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tasked the Council to review.

“The good news is that what it takes to grow population over 100 years is exactly what needs to happen to increase prosperity,” said Rakolta, noting that increasing productivity will eventually lead to population gains as people seek better-paying jobs.

He also said Michigan must reflect on its taxation practices and operations to ensure it is getting the most out of its spending and the federal funding available to it. He particularly called out special interests for preventing the candid conversation and policy action needed to fix Michigan’s government and adequately fund priorities like K-12 education.

Michigan Lacks Cohesion, Consistency to Attract Investment

As the head of a leading construction firm, Rakolta has repeatedly heard from potential investors over the years that Michigan lacks the “predictability and cohesion” needed to attract major manufacturing projects and innovators.

He noted that the partisan fights between Democrats and Republicans, labor and management, city and county, and long-standing racial tensions undermine the state’s ability to attract the high-paying jobs residents seek and are willing to build their lives around.

“This song gets played around the whole world … Michigan doesn’t present itself as a strategic partner, and that’s why those things aren’t being built here.”

We Must Hold Lansing Accountable for Inaction Before It’s Too Late

For Rakolta, action is needed, and we cannot accept inaction from our elected leaders just because it is an election year.

“We have the assets … We have smart people … We have hard-working people, and we have the desire, now we need the drive,” said Rakolta. “If [our elected officials] won’t do what we want, we need to make this the top conversation in this year’s election.”

He concluded by warning about losing out in the transition to electric vehicles and the failure to promote the talent and innovation present in the Detroit Region.

“We’re missing the boat on this. And we’re going to wake up 20, 30 years from now and say: ‘Oh my God, we let all this stuff slip.”

Read more from Rakolta in the Detroiter magazine: A Clarion Call: Reversing Our Decline Requires Action, Shared Civic Responsibility

RELATED: View the Full Growing Michigan Together Report