Newcombe Clark is 27 years old and a partner in Ann Arbor -based Bluestone Realty Advisors, a commercial real estate brokerage and consulting firm. A U-M grad, he sits on nine different boards, is a published playwright and columnist and is currently in development of his first animated cartoon. He will be writing about all things living/working/playing in Metro Detroit as a member of the creative class. Just what do we have to offer to this important demographic and what do we still need?
Post No. 1
It’s amusing that I would be asked to blog on the joys of being a young and ambitious resident of Michigan during not only the first truly cold week of the season but also on the auspicious 27th anniversary of my birth. I’m expected to write glowingly on the unique experience of being post-grad, yet still pre-fam, while living, working, and playing in a region that some may say is beleaguered to the point of collapse. If there are two things above all else that make most young people question the sanity of their decision to tough it out here through their twenties it is -1) the weather and -2) the somewhat depressing celebration of yet another year that might have been better spent elsewhere.
Just why would someone with a couple of advanced degrees in his pocket, an esoteric name to make, and a whole lot of something to prove choose to stake his claim here, on what some may say is an economic fault line ready to swallow our region down to oblivion? To ask me that question a few years ago I would have told you it was the path of least resistance.
I spent most of college working in real estate to help fund my lofty Mechanical Engineering and Japanese education (I wanted to build Japanese space robots). However upon graduation I was presented with somewhat less lofty career options (they wanted me to design plastic windshield washer fluid reservoirs for minivans). The choice at the time seemed simple and I ended up sticking with the bricks and mortar simply because it kept me above ground and walking with the living.
Now here I am 8 years into the game and still rolling the dice like I’ve got nothing to lose, or perhaps more accurately, everything to lose. I understand I’m painting with a broad brush here, but yes, your twenties are important. It is perhaps one of the few times in your life where you are old enough and educated or skilled enough to invest 100% of your available time and energy into advancing your lot in life. No real burdens are pulling you home at 5:15pm each night and no real worries are keeping you up ‘till 5:15am each morning. You are a dynamo of labor capital, prone to making mistakes from lack of experience sure, but still predisposed to putting in 80+ hours a week at a fraction of the pay of your older co-workers.
Yes, you are important and the companies of tomorrow love you, my new adult friends. They either want to hire you en masse and pay you little or they want access to your seemingly bottomless wallets of disposable income. They want to tap you for your ideas, your creativity, your energy, and your vigor. You add something to the discourse of business ideas, you broaden the cultural dynamic of the work place, and you’re great on the bottom line. Be assured that these companies will take all that you have and only give the bare minimum you need to subsist in return. And this right here, is why young people in Michigan, and especially in Metro Detroit, are holding all the cards in the uncertain poker game of our state’s future.
As a demographic, our numbers are dwindling, leaving the pickings slim for all those that want us so bad. We are the ones in control of our destinies when it comes to the work we want to do and the lives we wish to lead. New York, Chicago, these places are great, but the creative class in these markets is overflowing with 20-somethings from all over the world who come together in pursuit of the same thing. The competition is fierce and opportunities available are limited relative to the labor pool. Believe it or not, here in Detroit the ratios are switched in our favor, with more opportunities than young people to take advantage of them. Over the next week, I will be exploring just what it is to be a twenty-something in Michigan in 2007. We will talk living Metro, working Metro, playing Metro, and, to break the stereotype of my generation being only self-interested, we will even discuss what it means to give back to Metro. It’s great here, and it’s about time we stop bemoaning what we lack and start celebrating where we’re stacked.