For nearly fifty years the census has documented how the North has been losing the economic growth war to the South. The 2010 census shows that over the past ten years – straight through the Great Recession – there has been no lessening of that trend. Per capita incomes, population, gross state product and other measures of economic growth all rose fastest in a broad swath of America extending from the West Coast to Virginia in the so-called “Sun Belt.”
Why? The drivers behind this massive shift in economic power are easy to identify. The Southern States generally have costs that are below the national average, attractive places to live, an increasingly well-educated workforce and a pro-business, pro-growth attitude. These attributes translate to Southern locations being most often cited as the top places to do business and in surveys of business executives.
What does all this mean for Michigan? Two things. First, we have to get more cost competitive if we want to level the playing field with these states. Second, we have to provide more value for money than they do. We can do that by having growing downtowns, better transportation connectivity and better higher education systems.
Right-sizing the budget and growing the economy concurrently are tough, but necessary paths we must follow to have a different result in the 2020 census. Once we accelerate revenue growth, we will be able to invest in areas that will promote future growth and keep us on the right path.