One of the most pressing issues commonly discussed in Michigan’s automotive and mobility industry is attracting quality talent and keeping them in the state. But what really makes them stay? During the 2022 MICHauto Summit, Jer Staes, Co-founder, Producer, and Host of Daily Detroit, moderated the conversation on why people actively continue to choose Michigan with:
- Jose L. Flores, Chief Executive Officer of Ancor Automotive,
- Beth Silver, Manager of Mobility Strategy and Marketing at Bosch, and
- Travis White, Co-founder of ProNav Marine and Research Engineer and Relief Captain at the Great Lakes Research Center for Michigan Technological University
Staes opened the dialogue by reminding the audience that “people have more choices of where to work than ever before” and that “talent also needs to invest in us” before asking the group about their history and what drew them to the Great Lakes state in the first place.
Most of the panel was attracted to Michigan by familiar ties and beneficial job opportunities. White made the “active” choice to stay in the Upper Peninsula after graduating from Michigan Technological University because it was beneficial to his maritime business. Silver “always knew she would come back” based on her family ties, but also saw the growing tech mobility ecosystem, saying, “you have everyone at your fingertips here.”
Flores, a former out-of-stater, had a slightly different story. He recalled the “bad PR” about Detroit and Michigan when researching places years ago. But he said what stuck out to him was the “Detroit vs. Everyone” movement, which caused him to take his optimism and challenge himself to try this new place out.
“That really resonated with me,” Flores said, who has now lived in Michigan for six years. “I did see what you guys were doing, moving the needle, working together. And I said that I want to be a part of that.”
As the conversation continued, it appeared that Michigan branding “classics” like “Detroit vs. Everyone,” and “Pure Michigan” truly resonates with people across the country. White, who charter fishes in his spare time, revealed tourists and out-of-towners have frequently mentioned being influenced by Pure Michigan’s campaigns from 10 years ago. The panel all agreed that sticking to that kind of awareness branding is a wise long-term investment to attract quality talent.
But today’s marketing and public relations campaigns don’t all have to be catchy commercials and trendy clothing. Some “Pro-Michigan” initiatives focus on working, living, and playing in Southeast Michigan, like Let’s Detroit, a Detroit Regional Chamber program to attract and retain young talent in the region and cultivate an innovative, engaged, and culture-focused business community.
As Let’s Detroit ambassadors themselves, Silver and Flores appreciate the professional advantages and after-work adventures around the area, like walking tours in the city and attending Detroit City Football Club matches in the summer.
“If you didn’t grow up in the Detroit area, you might have a negative perspective,” Silver said. “The best part [for me] is the opinions changing for people in real time.”
The variety of entertainment certainly helps attract importing talent from other states. But making sure quality talent stays in the first place is also vital. The panel also agreed that quality talent needs to stay in Michigan in the first place. Long-term investment in people early on is vital. Flores specifically applauded the Detroit Regional Chamber’s educational initiatives and encouraged more engagement and talent-building before college.
“To grow and retain talent, it comes back to that branding piece,” Silver said, echoing Flores. “Sometimes people just don’t know about it. It’s using the resources, like Let’s Detroit, to educate them.”
To close the conversation, the group gave their best pitch to others to choose Michigan, which all echoed the entire panel discussion: Michigan is a great place to be among genuine, hardworking individuals who want to be part of something bigger and make a change.