Attracting new residents — and holding on to the talented workers already here — is a critical step toward a vibrant future for Genesee County, experts say.

That’s why the Flint & Genesee Group recently launched Make Your Move in Flint & Genesee, a talent attraction program that also connects prospective residents with local employers.

“Our goal is to showcase our region as a destination for innovative talent and help prospective residents see how they can build a meaningful career, community, and life here,” said Brianna Mosier, director of organizational development at the Flint & Genesee Group.

It’s all part of the Group’s efforts to support the county-wide economic vision of making Genesee County a top-five community in Michigan based on jobs, talent, livability, and equity by 2040, called “Forward Together.”

The Forward Together process launched in 2019 through a unique partnership between the city of Flint, Genesee County and the Flint & Genesee Group.

For more than a year, scores of people and groups from throughout the county, including residents, business owners and managers, elected leaders, governmental officials, and members of the nonprofit community, developed that new, shared vision for the economic vitality of the county and its communities. The planning process also included gathering and compiling demographic, economic, and other hard data about Flint and Genesee County.

To attain top-five community status, the region is challenged to improve its performance across five critical areas of economic growth: average wages, net in-migration, educational achievement, gross domestic product growth rate and family poverty rate, said Kristina Johnston, chief operating officer at the Flint & Genesee Group.

Here’s a look at the where Genesee County stands today in the five key indicators.

AVERAGE WAGES –  24th of 83 counties

Although the average weekly wage rate increased from 2019 to 2021, Genesee County’s ranking fell two spots when compared to other counties in Michigan. According to Johnston, this shows the importance of looking at the data for all counties, not just Genesee County.
“We might see ourselves moving up, which feels like progress,” Johnston said. “But this provides context and shows we’re not keeping up.”
Johnston adds that this data can also help guide work done in economic development and related spaces. “We know this community needs more higher paying jobs. What can we do to influence that? What do we need to do to attract businesses that pay higher wages?”

TOP 5: Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Midland, Macomb

NET IN-MIGRATION –  78th of 83 counties

One area where the Flint & Genesee Group has decided to involve itself is in talent attraction. This comes after discovering the county’s net in-migration, which is the difference between the number of people who move into a county and those who have moved out.
Between 2016 and 2019, the most recent data available, nearly 3,000 more people moved out of Genesee County than moved in. This put Genesee County among the five worst-performing Michigan counties for net in-migration.
“I believe that loss of population, or loss of working-age people, is probably one of the largest threats to our economy,” Johnston said. “All of us have a role in helping make this a great place where people want to live.”
The Make Your Move program is a step in the right direction to grow the region’s population and workforce, Johnston said.

TOP 5: Livingston, Ottawa, Allegan, Barry, Grand Traverse

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT –  35th of 83 counties

Educational attainment is a measure of successful academic completion by county residents.
About 32% of Genesee County residents 25 and older had a post-secondary degree in 2020 — a slight increase compared to two years prior. However, the county’s rank in comparison to the other 82 counties fell from 29th to 35th position.
Often communities that have a higher wealth rate also have higher educational rates, Johnston said.
“This is another reason why I would say if we can focus as a community on educational attainment, we can see ourselves grow and pull folks out of poverty,” she said.

TOP 5: Washtenaw, Oakland, Leelanau, Kalamazoo, Grand Traverse

GDP GROWTH RATE –  20th of 83 counties

The growth rate for Genesee County’s gross domestic product, or the value of goods and services produced within the county, represents the biggest positive movement in rankings among the five indicators tracked. Between 2019 and 2020, the ranking for GDP growth rate improved from 49th up to 20th place out of 83 Michigan counties.
“This is one of those spots where we’ve made the greatest leaps in those rankings,” said Johnston. “It really speaks to business growth and the health of those businesses being created and coming to our county.”  

TOP 5: Oscoda, Ionia, Menominee, Mackinac, Missaukee 

FAMILY POVERTY RATE –  81st of 83 counties

Family poverty rate is a measure of families who live below the poverty line, which is the minimum income needed to secure the necessities of life.
The family poverty rate in Genesee County declined from 15% to 12.9% between 2017 and 2021. But the county lost position in the county rankings – from 78th to 81st – meaning other counties have seen a faster reduction in their poverty rates.
“Having more folks here, driving up those wages, looking at educational achievement … those are the spaces through which we can pull folks out of poverty and make some change in these metrics,” Johnston said.

TOP 5: Livingston, Leelanau, Clinton, Ottawa, Oakland

How will we achieve our vision?

For months, Johnston has traveled across the region making Forward Together presentations, reporting the region’s progress toward the vision across the five indicators for success, and listening to what community leaders and residents are saying about the metrics.

Now the entire community must determine the next steps necessary for the vision to become a reality over the next decade or two, she said. Evaluation, refinement, and continued collaboration will be key to its success.

“My hope is that decision-makers in our communities use this data to inform their decisions and see where they fit into this vision going forward,” Johnston said. “The economic health of our community is interconnected, so it’s vital that we work collectively on solutions that are mutually beneficial to everyone.”

Forward Together crafted an initial list of six strategies to attain economic prosperity:

  1. Turn community challenges into economic opportunities
  2. Continue to focus on business attraction and retention
  3. Evaluate and expand tourism options
  4. Grow and coordinate community programs
  5. Build great places
  6. Invest in 21st-century economic infrastructure

Forward Together will continue tracking the key indicators as well as the metrics in a Community Scorecard, a broader set of statistics to help the region monitor if the progress achieved over time is shared across all Genesee County communities.
“This is a great opportunity for us as a community: To make change. To think about policy. To think about programs and interventions for kids. To think about partnerships with each other,” Johnston said. “That’s how we move forward together.”

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