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Can Michigan make it to 10 million people?

“Our goal should be, we can reach 10 million people again.”

That was Governor Snyder’s goal delivered at his 2017 State of the State speech Tuesday night.

Michigan was hit extremely hard during the Great Recession. It was the only state to lose population in the last US Census.

But the trend is reversing. Michigan is now gaining people, although not at a rate as fast as other states. Which means it’s likely Michigan will lose another congressional seat after the next Census if that pace doesn’t accelerate.

That’s just one reason why Governor Snyder set that 10 million-person goal by 2020 last week in his address.

But here’s a secret: Michigan is already on track to reach 10 million within three years. And, it’s quite likely Rick Snyder knows that.

The governor threw down that marker knowing that success is a near-certainty.

The bigger question is, who will make up that 10 million, and what does that mean for the prosperity and well-being of that group of people?

“I think... that the population projections that are currently available for the state show us getting to 10 million  by 2020 so, if that’s the goal, I think it’s sort of achievable without any great changes,” Lou Glazer, CEO of the Michigan Future think tank, told It’s Just Politics.

But, he says, that growth will largely be in older Michigan citizens who are retiring. “The challenge is growing the working age population - that’s really where we’re going to have trouble at the moment. We’ve got more people leaving the labor market than entering the labor market, so if we’re going to focus on population it really needs to be focused on working age population,” Glazer explained.

There are basically two ways to do that. The first: attract young career starters. The second: immigrants from other countries settling here.

During the State of the State, Snyder didn’t say how he intends to meet that 10-million goal, although the address was heavy on helping and attracting young people to Michigan, and especially Detroit.

But Snyder was completely silent on the subject of immigration. This from the same person who once proclaimed himself the most pro-immigration governor in the U.S. This from the same Governor who famously asked the Obama administration to boost the number of Syrian refugees fleeing coming to Michigan. Before he even more famously called for a “pause” in refugee resettlements and, whether he meant to or not, re-set the national dialogue on immigration, especially immigration from the Middle East.

If Governor Snyder wants a population increase to boost the economy, his plan needs to attract people who are going to be a net gain for the economy.

Ten million people by 2020? That’s a practically a given. The real question is what’s he going to do to make that a net economic gain for the state and whoever those 10 million people happen to be.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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