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Rubin: A hearty welcome to our newcomers from — where?

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Want to make $15 or $18 an hour selling shoes? Try Anchorage, Alaska.

Want to spend an average of $347,000 for a house? Try Anchorage for that, too.

Maybe that’s why people from Anchorage are trying Detroit.

Or what the heck, maybe it’s our balmy winters., a sort of for self-storage, just put out a study on where new residents of Detroit are coming from. It’s based on census information from 2009-13 and it actually covers all of Wayne County, not just Detroit, but still:

No. 4 on the list is the gateway to south-central Alaska, where the marketing and business development director for the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce heard the news and said, “Oh, my gosh.”

“I have no idea,” said Lisa Noland, why Alaskaganders would be migrating to Michigan. “Not that I think it would be unwise; I just don’t know what the commonality would be.”

It should be noted that the SpareFoot list focuses on out-of-state arrivals. Of the 48,471 Wayne County newcomers in the five-year span, 65.4 percent came from elsewhere in Michigan, notably Oakland County (12,217).

It should also be noted that most people have no idea how large Anchorage is or isn’t. Go ahead, take a guess. We’ll get back to that in a few paragraphs.

Chicago loves us!

No. 1 on the list was Cook County, Illinois, as in Chicago, as in suburban Ann Arbor.

It was followed by Phoenix, Toledo, Anchorage, Atlanta, Tampa, Las Vegas, the central Florida county of Citrus, the Bronx and Seattle.

Al Harris of SpareFoot, who conducted the study, used figures from a nifty online census function called flows mapper, which can tell you how many people moved from Anchorage to Alger County in the U.P. (four) and from Alger County to Anchorage (six, a reasonable trade).

A 33-year-old Elmore Leonard fan, Harris said he likewise has no idea why 299 people from Anchorage would resettle in Wayne County.

“It might be something company-related,” he surmises. “Maybe military? I’m kind of curious about that myself.”

Like Detroit, Anchorage has a symphony orchestra, a roller derby team and a busy international airport: it’s a major freight interchange and refueling stop.

Unlike Detroit, it has a Bear Paw Festival and a problem with cars running into moose, which rarely ends well for either party.

In the deepest part of a long winter, Noland said, the sun sets at 3:30 p.m. and doesn’t reappear until 9:30 a.m.

But 305,297 people live there anyway, because there’s a lot to be said for gazing in most any direction and seeing something gorgeous — as long as it’s not pitch dark outside.

Wayne wonderment

Noland said a downturn in the oil and gas industry has led to layoffs and some corresponding departures, but that’s a development too recent for the study to register.

Retirees often flee to Arizona or Las Vegas, she said, but that still doesn’t explain Wayne County.

“Maybe they got sick of twilight six months a year,” suggested Kim Fisher, who works in IT for the Detroit law firm Dickinson Wright.

Fisher was picking up a lunchtime pizza from a food truck in Campus Martius, where a quick survey unearthed no one from Alaska and precious few who had alit in Wayne County between 2009 and 2013.

Fisher, 40, is a Wayne County immigrant, but her acclamation to Plymouth Township was not difficult: In order to be closer to their jobs, she and her husband moved from Ann Arbor.

Across the park, a dark-haired woman eating a spinach salad said she knew a lesbian in Ferndale who had moved from Anchorage to Ferndale with her family of ministers because Ferndale is particularly welcoming to gay people.

That’s Oakland County, though, a very different kettle of salmon.

Only 78 people left Anchorage for Oakland County, an average of 15.66 per year and barely a quarter of the number who moved to Wayne.

In the opposite direction, 16 people moved from Oakland County to Anchorage, compared to 108 people from Wayne County.

That could suggest a greater hardiness and sense of adventure among Wayne Countians. Or maybe not. Who’s counting?