In June 2023, PSC was engaged by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive office to staff, facilitate, and coordinate the Growing Michigan Together Council (GMTC).
Over five months, PSC organized 72 workgroup members, three project partners, and 27 governor-appointed council members and analyzed decades of data and trends to produce a final report that outlined three strategies to help grow Michigan’s population.
PSC leveraged its expertise in research, facilitation, and finding common ground to understand Michigan's diverse challenges and imagine a brighter future for our state.

Forming the Growing Michigan Together Council

By 2050, the U.S. population will grow by more than 20 million people, but Michigan’s population is projected to decline. The data is stark. Today, our state ranks 49th out of 50 in population growth. Since 1980, Michigan has grown just 8.8 percent compared to 46.3 percent growth in the U.S. overall. In the next 25 years, projections show the 65 and older crowd will grow by 30 percent, the population of children and young adults will shrink by 6 percent, and the amount of working-age people will stagnate.

In response to this crisis, and the litany of challenges the loss of people creates in its wake, Governor Whitmer announced the Growing Michigan Together Council on June 1, 2023.

The governor’s team called on PSC to support this bipartisan group in crafting collaborative policy recommendations that support Michigan’s population growth. PSC expertly guided the group through rigorous discussion, debate, and data analysis toward a shared understanding of Michigan’s population challenges and vision of a successful future.

“The Growing Michigan Together Council focused on actions we can take to grow our state’s population and economy while protecting our quality of life and cost of living. I am grateful to the bipartisan members of the council and the workgroups for doing the hard work of tackling these big questions. Our future is bright and I know we can keep getting things done to help anyone ‘make it’ in Michigan.”—Governor Whitmer

Population Decline Threatens the State’s Future

Like many problems we’re asked to help solve, Michigan’s stagnant population growth has multiple drivers. To understand why more people are going to other states to grow roots, rather than coming to—or staying—in Michigan, we guided workgroups through examining education disparities and infrastructure needs, digging into talent and workforce gaps, and studying places that are attracting young people. The complexity of these issues demanded a collaborative approach to ensure comprehensive and effective solutions.

“While Michigan has many assets—world-class higher education, rich natural resources, a dominant engineering workforce, and a relatively low cost of living—we face many challenges that we must reverse to thrive in a 21st-century economy.”

— Growing Michigan Together Council Report

Handcrafted Solutions for Michigan’s Population Challenges

The council was charged with setting aside their differences to appoint workgroups of experts and practitioners, engage the public, and develop recommendations that support Michigan’s population growth through investment in people, places, and our education system.

“We must commit to this vision and work collaboratively and inclusively to transcend the partisan differences that have contributed to our lack of cohesion, sapped our ability to respond dynamically to problems, and limited our potential.” —Growing Michigan Together Council Report

To facilitate this complex charge, PSC relied on its deep bench of experts who stepped into a variety of roles, serving as:

  • Expert guides: PSC’s subject matter experts facilitated in-depth discussions, innovative thinking, and informed decision-making by the council and the four issue-specific workgroups (jobs, talent, and people; infrastructure and places; preK–12 education; and higher education). Having facilitators who fully understood these issues enhanced the discussion and led to more relevant outcomes.
  • Bridge builders: As a trusted mediator, our objective, nonpartisan approach reinforced consensus-building and respect. We ensured every voice was heard and distilled numerous ideas into cohesive recommendations.
  • Rapid response researchers: From beginning to end, PSC analyzed, researched, fact-checked, reviewed, listened, and managed other project partners to make sure the process was grounded in facts.
  • Intent listeners: We helped plan and execute listening sessions across the state and administered surveys to council members, allowing many residents, and the council itself, to express their ideas and opinions to stop the state’s population decline. This important feedback helped shape the council’s insights and recommendations.
  • Result drivers: PSC kept our eye on the Governor’s charge, expertly navigating obstacles and roadblocks to deliver a comprehensive report on Michigan’s population growth to the legislature and governor by her deadline of December 14, 2023.
  • Solutions architects: After assembling extensive data, public input, and the collective wisdom of the workgroups and council, PSC developed a well-written, engaging final report detailing our state’s challenges and optimal growth strategies. We also incorporated many easy-to-understand graphics and design elements to make this nearly 90-page report accessible to a diverse audience of Michiganders.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II welcomes council members to the first GMTC meeting at Newlab at Michigan Central on July 13, 2023.

Participating in the GMTC Higher Education Field Hearing on September 26, 2023, from left to right, were: Stacie Behler, vice president of public affairs and communications at Grand Valley State University; Ollie Howie, GMTC voting member and managing director at New Community Transformation Fund Grand Rapids; and TaRita Johnson, senior vice president of talent and diversity at The Right Place Inc.

The fastest-growing states shared similar traits: higher educational attainment, growing median incomes, and walkable, transit-rich communities. —Hilary Doe, Chief Growth Officer at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation

To address the challenges stymying Michigan’s growth, PSC supported the council by digging into expert data and commissioning studies on economics, population, infrastructure, and education to develop an in-depth analysis of the challenges to growing Michigan’s population. Over the course of five months, we investigated decades of trends related to key outcomes that could impact growth. The council focused on transformational strategies that looked at redefining how to educate our kids so they can succeed and innovate in the changing economy, what it would take to grow businesses that provide high-wage jobs, and best practices to create thriving, inclusive places that are magnets for talent.

A Blueprint for Population and Economic Growth

By December 2023, PSC’s collaborative efforts bore fruit in the form of a comprehensive report with three strategies put forth by the council as an intertwined system that works together to drive healthy growth. The recommendations are:

  • Build a lifelong education system focused on future-ready skills and competencies to ensure students thrive in work and life
  • Create a transformative economic growth strategy that establishes Michigan as the Innovation Hub of the Midwest and America’s Scale-Up State
  • Create thriving, resilient communities that are magnets for young talent

These insights lay the groundwork for tangible policy changes, addressing Michigan’s pressing needs and fostering a brighter future for all. We are energized by the idea that if the 27 council members—all at very different life stages with diverse life experiences, belief systems, and political ideologies—could align on strategies to set Michigan up for a better future, it is possible for policymakers to do the same.

PSC’s work with GMTC exemplifies our commitment to evidence-based policy solutions and collaborative decision-making. By bridging expertise with relatable and actionable solutions, we unlocked the potential for transformative change and envisioned a new era of prosperity for Michigan and its people.