Meet the young Michiganders joining the effort to keep their peers in in the state ⋆
When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her new Growing Michigan Together Council in June, designed to boost population growth and retain the state’s talent, observers were quick to pose one pressing question: Where were all the young people?
Two months later, Whitmer announced appointments to new workgroups within the council and, in turn, resolved the question of why nobody under age 25 appeared on a list of professionals dedicated to bringing – and keeping – young people to and in Michigan. Emily Hoyumpa, 20, and Aidan Sova, 24, have been tapped for the council’s higher education and infrastructure workgroups, respectively.
“The diverse workgroup members of the Growing Michigan Together Council will be instrumental in our effort to grow our economy and population while protecting our natural resources,” said Whitmer in an Aug. 7 statement. “These members represent a range of professions, communities, and perspectives — all of which are essential to developing a comprehensive strategy for growth.”
Emily Hoyumpa | Courtesy photo
Hoyumpa, who serves as Michigan State University’s incoming student body president, and Sova, a graduate student and product consultant at Google, are the youngest members of their workgroups and on the council itself. They’re each hopeful that their perspectives as young professionals can inform the council’s work to keep people like them in Michigan.
When a May study from the Michigan Center for Data and Analytics identified the state as having the 46th slowest-growing population out of 47 states that experienced population growth between 2010 and 2020, Sova was unsurprised.
“Being a young person and more so being a young professional, especially being at a Big 10 university here in Michigan, talent immediately runs to Chicago or to California,” Sova said. “It’s almost a joke of how every other person you know will eventually end up in Chicago post-grad.”
Michigan’s population is also aging at a rate faster than the nation as a whole, causing concern for officials who hope to promote sustainable economic growth in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the solution to this issue was quickly identified at recruiting and retaining more young workers, Whitmer’s administration is still grappling with how exactly to achieve that.
The formation of the council and its workgroups were a positive sign to Sova and Hoyumpa, who both are faced with the question of what it would take to stay in Michigan – for Hoyumpa, who’s finishing her senior year at MSU in 2024, and Sova, who’s pursuing his graduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania after completing his undergrad at the University of Michigan.
“I was thrilled to hear that the governor was very quickly working on a remedy and long term solution in the form of this council to address the inherent issue of our talent retention and the fact that we are hemorrhaging young people in our state,” Sova said.
Higher education and infrastructure, the issues both Hoyumpa and Sova have been charged to work on, are key factors in keeping young people in Michigan. Hoyumpa said that the cost of pursuing higher education, along with an increase in students heading out of state for college, present a loss of talent for the state before young people even enter the workforce.
“There’s a pretty big tendency that once Michigan students are going into higher education, they’re moving out of the state, which is getting rid of that talent growth that’s being cultivated in Michigan public schools,” Hoyumpa said.
The higher education workgroup has been tasked with exploring ways to make college more affordable for Michigan students, as well as examining which demographic groups in the state have access to post-secondary education over others.
Both of these issues, Hoyumpa said, will help the group address its main concern – keeping graduates of Michigan higher education institutions in the state upon graduation.
“Job opportunities for post-grads, depending on where you get your degree from, sometimes may line up for how much you’re making after graduation,” Hoyumpa said. “But you may make more in another state than you are in the state of Michigan.”
Aidan Sova | Courtesy photo
In the infrastructure workgroup, Sova hopes to focus on three issues he believes are main priorities for young professionals working to establish roots in Michigan: increasing public transportation across the state, prioritizing sustainability and working to make the state’s city centers more walkable and commuter-friendly.
“Young people want to live in walkable cities, or urban centers, in which they’re able to get their groceries, go to a concert, go to their friend’s house,” Sova said. “We need to really make sure that increased public transportation is enabled through any infrastructure investments.”
The workgroup, which Sova said will meet for the first time on Friday, will have to also reckon with an increasingly-remote workforce, but that doesn’t always mean working from home.
“As we talk about cities and the way that they’re built, there’s the opportunity to ensure that our public spaces are optimized for remote work,” Sova said.
A member of the Ann Arbor Public Library Board of Trustees, Sova said he hopes to bring his experience with libraries as remote workspaces into the statewide conversation about hosting workers without offices.
“I think that it’s deeply important that we are optimizing our physical spaces and infrastructure for collaboration and for those working environments,” he said. “Of course, [remote workers] can meet at the Starbucks or at whatever local space, but I think that there needs to be a more sustainable sort of systemic answer to that.”
In terms of their own career and personal trajectories, both Sova and Hoyumpa agreed that there are certain conditions to being able to stay in Michigan for the foreseeable future. Hoyumpa said that the incentivization by universities and companies for students to pursue internships or summer work can pose a challenge when paid opportunities are scarce in her home state.
“You’re looking for these paid opportunities,” Hoyumpa said. “So where are the places that have those paid opportunities?”
Sova said that compared to other centers of work in his industry, Michigan is a cheaper place to live, but that many workers in his field are forced by nature of their companies’ headquarters to relocate to places like New York City or Chicago.
“In order for me to stay in Michigan, we need to see a hugely increased investment from these desirable companies here,” Sova said.
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Hoyumpa, who described her post-grad plans as “a lot of shifting pieces” said that access to resources that can turn her degree into a sustainable source of income will be critical to keep her in Michigan.
“I really would love to be here, obviously – my entire family’s here,” Hoyumpa said. “It’d be great to explore for a bit, but I can always see calling Michigan home.”
The council has daunting tasks ahead of it, but Hoyumpa and Sova said they’re eager to get to work and, above all, happy to be included.
“The importance of young people in such large, sweeping decisions that help inform the very tomorrow and the day after in Michigan cannot be overstated,” Sova said. “It is critical that young professionals and young people in general have a seat at this table, and frankly, I’m thrilled that the governor has pulled out the seats for us.”
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authored by Lily Guiney
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