Blog: Jeff Helminski

Jeff Helminski has some ideas about how to attract young professionals to SE Michigan. He is the Managing Partner of The Moravian Companies, co-founder of the Young Professionals Leadership Council, and the youngest member of the Oakland County Business Roundtable. Go on, click the link. You know you want to read what he has to say.

Jeff Helminski - Post 3: If you attract them, prosperity will come

 I am one of the believers in the Lou Glazer philosophy of economic development.  The single most determinative issue to the future prosperity of Michigan is the attraction and retention of young talent. 

The best local source of information I am aware of on this topic comes from Michigan Future Inc. The empirical data show this to be true and the experiential data I have gathered over my time spent in successful cities around the world seem to indicate the theory holds.

The debate rages on as to whether YP’s first select a job or a place. I have observed first hand the decision making process about where to live as made by YP’s with the greatest amount of opportunity and flexibility. This comes from observing my classmates at Stanford Business School in making post graduate moves and more recently my sister’s process as she finishes her MBA at Duke. I have concluded that the decision-making process is place first, job second. 

However, I believe that economic opportunity (ie. job opportunities) is a significant component of what makes a place attractive. I think this is a shift from the decision-making process of past generations and therefore difficult for some members of those past generations to understand. I will offer one not so scientific example to illustrate this point. During the boom years of the late 1990’s when jobs were plentiful in Detroit (remember when GM stock traded at $90 and I thought my stock options were worth something?), the Michigan brain drain we talk so much about today was still in effect.

I am certainly neither the first person to identify this issue nor the first to blog about its importance to our state. We in Michigan are far from the first to identify this important issue either. Virtually every other state in the union has seen the same light and is targeting these young talented individuals for recruitment to their state.

The question I often ask myself is: What makes us any more likely to win this talent battle than any other state? If you read the materials from chambers of commerce and economic development organizations from around the country, you could replace Nashville with Detroit or Arkansas with Michigan and it would look about the same as our materials. Every state has economic development dollars and incentives to throw at this objective. What can we do that is unique and different and meaningful?

How about this? How about, in order to show the YP’s of the world that Michigan is truly committed to this effort, we set aside one position on every board, commission, task force and advisory panel at the state, county and local level for a young professional. Create an extra slot or fill all newly vacated positions with a YP. 

This is a no cost, highly visible way to show the level of commitment we as a state have to this important group. This would show YP’s that not only do we want you located in our communities; we want you engaged in the decision making that will shape our communities. It would infuse new perspectives, new energy and a new level of connectivity between experienced leaders and young leaders in helping chart the future course of our state.