Editorial: Make Michigan a millennial talent hub

The Detroit News

Calling all millennials: Michigan wants you. That’s the message in a new talent attraction campaign that went live earlier this month as a way to woo young professionals to the state, and keep them here. It’s a worthwhile idea as Michigan moves from being a state where young people once left in droves to one that draws them in.

The state’s Talent and Economic Development Department is leading the Choose Michigan effort, and think of it as a Pure Michigan campaign to attract job seekers. And not just anyone looking for work. This is all about targeting college grads in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) fields and letting them know what a great place Michigan is in which to live and work.

The state talent office is seeking to attract milliennials to Michigan to fill in-demand jobs.

Given this is a millennial campaign, there’s a good deal of time spent marketing the state as a place to play, too.

Most Michiganians are aware of the economic progress the state has made the past eight years. And all the natural beauty that comes with being surrounded by the Great Lakes.

But that message is lost on youth in states surrounding Michigan -- and even on some who went to college in the state.

Roger Curtis, who heads the talent department, says Choose Michigan is rolling out in the Midwest cities of Chicago, Pittsburgh and Madison as well as across Michigan. There’s a website (choosemichigan.org), along with an array of social media, videos, radio and print spots. 

If you’re not a millennial, you may not get the marketing strategy. The videos are animated and brightly colored, and try to showcase how Michigan offers fun on the weekends and energizing work during the week.

They have gotten a positive response from millennial focus groups. Curtis says that 72 percent of millennials who participated in Midwestern states said they would now consider Michigan as a place to pursue a career. The campaign was also tested in California, and 64 percent of millennials surveyed there came away with a favorable impression.

“There’s the juxtaposition that you can go to the Electric Forest Festival on the weekend, and then go change the world redesigning the energy grid with renewable energy sources on Monday,” Curtis says.

Choose Michigan is a subset of the Marshall Plan that Gov. Rick Snyder has promoted and helped push through the Legislature earlier this year. The talent development program is largely focused on grooming talent already in the state, but the governor has also made it his mission to boost the state’s population.

This is a good way to do it. Snyder has projected more than 800,000 jobs will come available through 2024 in high-paying, in-demand careers in computer science, manufacturing, health care and IT, to name a few.

The Legislature set aside $100 million for the Marshall Plan, and Choose Michigan is costing $2.5 million in the first year. Its success will be judged based on visits to the website, the number of millennials who express an interest, and then how many jobs are getting filled.

The campaign is starting with a focus on Detroit, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, but any Michigan city is welcome to join.

If it gets the kind of results Curtis expects, the state should consider expanding the reach to California, which is actively competing for talent -- especially in the realm of mobility.