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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Keeping young people here

Bernero plans to outline city’s need to retain young talent in Monday’s State of the City speech

by Andy Balaskovitz

Friday, Jan. 25 — At his State of the City address Monday night, Mayor Virg Bernero will continue his campaign for a stronger metropolitan region — creating one would help solve the problem of young talent leaving the area, he said.


Last year, Bernero renewed his call for merging Lansing, East Lansing and Lansing Township, which was met with opposition by officials in those neighboring communities. Aside from potential long-term cost savings and the streamlining of governmental services provided, Bernero said a unified metro region could make Lansing a destination.


While Michigan State University, Cooley Law School, Lansing Community College and Davenport University help attract young people, Bernero said, Lansing needs to improve on keeping them here.


“We do very well” at bringing young talent to the area, Bernero said today in an interview. “But we do not keep it. Cities that do kick our butt.”


Bernero’s speech — his eighth since taking office — is at 7 p.m. at the Grand Trunk Western Railroad depot in REO Town, which was restored as part of the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s new $182 million office complex and power plant there. The speech is open to the public.


“To retain young talent, you’ve got to have a real city — a functioning metro region,” he said. “We know we’re losing. The numbers don’t lie: We are not retaining our young talent.”


A third leg of thriving cities, Bernero said, is “educational attainment,” which the U.S. Census Bureau defines as “the highest level of education that an individual has completed.” He was referring to research by Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future Inc., that suggests funding higher education and retaining young people are bigger drivers of economic recovery than policies advantageous to business interests.


While Bernero said the city has “a lot to brag about” — citing local manufacturing jobs growth, major redevelopments at the Knapp’s Building and the BWL, and the Cadillac ATS (which is built in Lansing) being named North American Car of the Year — “What I worry about is how sustainable it is if we don’t address educational attainment and being able to retain our young talent.”


“In the near term, I’m going to be able to say the state of the city is good,” he said.


In a piece of good news, Bernero said today that the city’s projected $11 million budget deficit for the next fiscal year has been reduced to $9 million. He declined to give specifics on how that would be balanced.


“There have been some improvements. But $9 million is not insignificant by any means. There will be pain, unpleasantness and ugliness — it will not be pretty,” he said of his budget recommendation that will come out in March.

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