Blog: Jessica Pfeiffer

Jessica Pfeiffer is a native Detroiter, currently a resident of Corktown, and the Executive Director of The MORE Program (MI Resources & Opportunities for Entrepreneurs).She is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and serves on the board of Southwest Solutions. Jessica will be writing about creating internship opportunities to train and retain our region's college students.

Post No. 5

Can We Cooperate to Fill in the Gaps?

As I’ve noted in my previous posts, there is a real synergy developing in the thinking of regional and state leaders around the idea of internships. However, even if we were to meet our objective of finding an internship for every college student, that alone would not be enough to keep those students in the state when they graduate. The state and southeast Michigan in particular still have a few items to address to improve our reputation as a great place to live and locate a business.

Let’s revisit the Cool Cities study that I cited in my second post. The top four attributes that the young professionals answering the survey desired in a place to live were:  "Safe Streets," "Affordable," "Walkable Streets" and "Many Different Jobs."

Connections to smaller businesses, which provide a majority of the jobs in the state, will help students become aware of the Many Different Jobs that are available right in their own backyards. Internships in these companies should help students find jobs in those and other area companies after graduation. 

Further, if the students are truly entrepreneurial, later this year The MORE Program will be launching a student entrepreneur internship program of our own to provide opportunities for University of Michigan students to develop their own business ideas and learn some of the skills that can help them to become successful business owners. If this pilot program is successful, we hope to roll it out to additional colleges and universities throughout the state in the coming years so that we don’t face the loss of our best and brightest students.

As for the other top attributes, there is some good news and there are some opportunities for improvement. For the most part, especially compared to major metropolitan areas across the country, southeast Michigan has the affordability point down. Housing, shopping and entertainment dollars stretch a lot further here than they do in places like Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Los Angeles… 

The first and third criteria, however, could use some work. Throughout the region, we have to assertively address the crime, inequality and downright scary darkness issues that make some of the streets in our cities and neighborhoods feel unsafe. Cutting down on numbers of police officers, community policing programs and other preventative policing techniques is the worst possible way for cities, counties and our states to resolve budget shortfalls. Well-lit and clean streets will go a long way to improving the feeling of safety in a neighborhood and will also contribute to the other big factor- walkability.

Walkability doesn’t just mean having a cute downtown of shops in every city or suburb that people who live there can walk to. It means none of us should get in a car to go there no matter where we live.   

I know that in the Motor City it might sound disloyal, but we need to get out of our cars! Just about every other Metromode blogger has mentioned it, but I’ll add my voice to the chorus. We must find a way to create a regional system of public transportation, for the future of our environment, viability of our roads, and the vitality of the new "downtowns" that we are building in all the cities and towns throughout the region. A solution must exist, and we need to work together as a region to find it.

Which leads me to the last big thing that I think we are truly missing- COOPERATION. 

We absolutely must put an end to the territorial squabbling between our cities and suburbs and counties and state. We are truly all in this together, the interconnections between Detroit and the suburbs and the rest of the state and Ann Arbor and Detroit and the rest of the state and all the other permutations of locations and institutions that tend see themselves as competitors must be recognized and celebrated, valued and respected. No one town, county or even region can go it alone. No single institution, plan, association, university, government entity or program is going to solve all of Michigan’s problems on its own. We need to really and truly SHARE ownership and responsibility for ALL of the problems and work cooperatively to find solutions. 

That is one of the reasons why I am excited by the possibilities the WIRED grants present for Southeast Michigan. The programs resulting from those grants are focused on an entire 13 county area, and leaders from all types of companies, governments and institutions are sitting around the same table working cooperatively on ideas and solutions to problems. Its enough to give a person hope for the future. 

And what a fine place to end this blog... in a state of hope.