While Detroit and Michigan have had more than their fair shares of criticism, Richard Florida, the Co-founder of Creative Class Group, thinks we need to give ourselves more credit for what we have done so far. During the 2023 Detroit Policy Conference, he detailed what Detroit and Michigan can do to add to the “incredible progress” we have made so far, like redefining remote work and double downing on the perks of living around the Great Lakes.
“The Pandemic isn’t a Disruptor; It’s an Accelerator to What’s Already Been Happening”
Opening his keynote, Florida encouraged the audience to redefine what the pandemic did to the work environment and remote work, as it is just a way to organize knowledge work. Further, he mentioned how Detroit is closer to the national average of remote workers and what are the normal, but positive, effects caused by this.
“Cities and metros pull and push people together and apart. It accelerates family formation moves. This is nothing new,” he said. “Many more people can live in rural and the U.P. and commute to downtown. The boundaries are growing in a physical and digital effect.”
Continue Making Downtown Detroit for the People
Closing his keynote, Florida insisted on Detroit continuing to be a great place to work, play, and connect all while incorporating equity into it, which are things we are already doing as a community and a city thanks to initiatives from residents and organizations like the Detroit Regional Chamber.
“What you have seen with your downtown … it’s not a central business district; it’s now become a central sports district … a central entertainment district, and a central social district,” Florida said. “Create downtown into a center of connections … a Central Connectivity District.”
Double Down on Michigan’s Benefits
Following his keynote, Florida sat down with Christy McDonald, Special Correspondent and Anchor at WDIV-TV 4 NBC. When discussing how to pique outsiders’ interest, Florida said he’s not worried about Detroit, as people are getting “really tired of the coasts. He encouraged the idea of leaning into what Detroit and Michigan have to offer beyond its “cool factor.”
“It’s not so much of the marketing machine that matters, it’s about the product you offer, and Detroit has a great product,” he said. “There are about two dozen really good colleges and universities … affordable housing, great schools … It’s hard to beat. I think this evolution is coming, but the world’s tilting towards you.”
Focus on the Boomerangs and Southeast Michigan is in Better Shape Than We Think
The conversation developed into seeing how Detroit can position itself to attract and retain talent. While admitting it is a “multi-faceted” problem, Florida thinks Detroit should focus on even more effective recruiting of the “boomerang” demographic, who leave their hometowns after college graduation but return a decade or two later to create and raise children.
“A lot of the kids who go to elite schools will leave. It’s the nature of the beast. But when they hit about 30 [years old], then they’ll realize when they can go anywhere. [Detroit] should thicken the job market for this ‘boomerang’ cohort,” Florida said. “[Detroit] is still retaining three quarters of our overall talent—bigger than other cities like New York and Boston.”
Start on the “Generational Agenda” of Making a More Family-Friendly City
In closing, Florida talked about the upcoming assessment of Detroit and the State of Michigan in partnership with MICHauto to develop a talent strategy. Further, he re-emphasized how Michigan will realize we’ve been underestimating ourselves and will soon start to look at ourselves in a more favorable light than we have been.
“Twenty years ago, it was important to draw young people to cities. But in America, it’s hard to raise a family in the city,” he said. “Create a balance between the youngsters and the families in an equitable way. The heavy lifting has been done. Now it’s about persisting.”
This session was sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.