Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

January 26, 2014

Editorial: Region must prepare for dual growth spurts

A detailed economic analysis of northwest Michigan’s economy predicts strong growth and a population boom over the next quarter-century.

The analysis by the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy at the University of Michigan says growth should give entrepreneurs new chances for profits in health care, senior care, construction and the food service sectors.

That’s the good news. The flip side is that those same numbers represent the potential for a corresponding boom in low-wage, zero-benefits service economy jobs, already a substantial part of the economy. If the number of senior citizens doubles, as predicted, that means job growth in the senior care and food service sectors, neither of which offers much for the people who actually do the work.

Growth will also put an increasing load on the region’s infrastructure, such as roads; government services — including fire and rescue services — will be strained,

There are also predictions of a significant shortage of skilled workers in the Grand Traverse region over the next 30 years.

“It is going to be much harder to get employment gains because there are not going to be the people to fill those jobs, and it’s being driven by the aging of the population,” said senior research associate Don Grimes.

A worker shortage could mean business leaders will have to pay more attention to worker recruitment and retention because skilled workers will be much harder to find.

Luring skilled workers to the region will be only half the battle. Area governments and economic development entities will also be tasked with luring young professionals to the region to ensure there is a thriving population of upwardly mobile families to balance the growth in seniors.

The region will need more than service and construction jobs to thrive, and those will only come if the people who create such jobs live here.

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