The importance of Restoring Michigan Cities

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    When our central cities hurt, we all hurt and we are all less competitive than our neighboring states and less attractive on the global market. According to the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), while the national economy struggles with two years of slow economic growth, U.S. inner cities are reeling under a decade of economic stagnation.1 Between 1998 and 2008, the number of private sector jobs in the 100 largest U.S. inner cities grew in aggregate by only 1%.2
    These trends have profound implications for economically distressed urban neighborhoods. Among employed inner city residents, almost 40% also worked in the inner city where the decay of local employment over the past decade has been devastating in terms of job opportunities and economic well-being.
    Restoring vitality to central cities that have experienced decades of population and job loss will not be a simple matter, and it will not happen overnight. It will be a complex, gradual process involving change to these cities’ social, economic, and physical features, a task rendered even more difficult by the severe fiscal constraints.
    That’s what we face regarding our cities, and this state will not reinvent itself to meet competition in this global economy without restoring its central cities. Despite the challenges in our central cities, I believe we can enable the playing field to become a destination state with a robust and diverse economy and culture, encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit, growing and retaining human and intellectual capital with vibrant central cities.
    We owe it to the state’s residents to work at reversing those trends of the industrial age, end the divisive fight between rural and urban, and lay a strong foundation to once again make Michigan a magnet for job creators and talent around the world.
    All too often, the material difficulties cities face are complicated by political, psychological, and legal challenges. In addition there is little accepted language in government for talking about a city experiencing severe population loss and few policy frameworks that do not revert to talk about growth.
    Both state and federal government play a critical role in restoring central cities; however, policy making have been affected with at least three major structural problems: the absence of coherent and comprehensive strategies, lack of coordination among different federal and state agencies, and failure to maintain a sustained commitment to these cities.
    We need a roadmap to help put policies into a more objective, analytical framework while we continue to find opportunities to engage in main street and neighborhood initiatives. Such a framework will establish the parameters for urban economic and community development, help align public and private resources, and create policies resulting in the restoration of Michigan cities. The implementation and adjustment of initiatives and policies against strong indicators creates an “Urban Agenda” that will restore Michigan cities.
    1 – ICIC defines inner cities as core urban census tracts with 20% or higher poverty rates or that meet two of the following three criteria: poverty rate of 1.5 times or more than that of their Metropolitan Statistical Areas, median household income of half or less than that of their Metropolitan Statistical Areas, and unemployment rate of 1.5 or more than that of their Metropolitan Statistical Areas.
    2
    – In the absence of growth from education and medical institutions, both of which are likely to face serious constraints in the next decade, inner cities would have suffered net job loss (-0.1%) over the period.

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