Traverse City Record-Eagle


April 6, 2014

Laura Oblinger: Fighting Michigan's brain drain

It’s curious the word “sustainable” carries such a negative connotation with some as a code word for government overreach and loss of individual rights. It would seem that sustainability is something to strive for, whether it applies to a business, organization, a family — even a community.

As businesses or communities evolve, the key to staying competitive — sustainable — is finding ways to integrate new people and ideas into successful methods proven over time. Precious few entities remain at the top over generations doing the same things with the same people. Gov. Rick Snyder knows this. He’s made it a priority in his first term to reach out to young people to learn what Michigan can do to attract and retain up-and-coming professionals to the Wolverine state, including those who’ve left Michigan for greener economic pastures.

This month, Gov. Snyder will sit down with a group of Young Professionals from the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce for a roundtable dialogue about Michigan’s economic future and where their rising careers fit into the picture. Gov. Snyder is a fan of the Chamber’s Young Professionals program, publicly touting it in a proclamation presented to the Chamber in January. Now he wants to personally interact with some of these individuals, to learn first-hand why they enjoy living and working in Northern Michigan. If Michigan hopes to grow its economy over the long-term, Gov. Snyder knows it’s critical to have an ample, talented, energetic — dare to say sustainable? — work force.

The Chamber and its YPs are proud to have caught the governor’s eye. Organizations big and small across the country invest significant time and money trying to engage young people, get them involved, to vote, volunteer, run for office, etc. Millennials are not a demographic prone to membership groups or to do things the way they’ve always been done. The Chamber is fortunate its Young Professionals program and other initiatives like Leadership Grand Traverse are breaking down some of these generational obstacles. The reason for their success? Participants see their time and effort are making a difference. They’re opening personal and professional doors, and learning more about the community in which they live and how to help shape its future. When Michigan’s highest-ranking public official takes note, it’s even more impactful.

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