The recent U.S. 2020 Census Count revealed that Flint and Genesee County experienced a decline in population over the past decade, as did other communities in Michigan and across the nation. The city of Flint lost over 20 percent of its population, declining to 81,252 people in 2020, and Genesee County’s population decreased by a lesser extent, down 4.6 percent to 406,211. But what does this mean?
Declining population, depending on the degree of loss, has many implications including: potentially receiving less federal funding for critical services such as health care, K-12 education, housing, and infrastructure; it can also prompt redistricting and reapportioning of congressional seats. Equally important, as residents migrate out of Genesee County, this loss amplifies the ongoing talent shortage.
While the workforce shortage is not a new challenge, it has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to population decline, other key trends that may be contributing to the talent shortage include women leaving the workforce due to childcare and other issues, supplementary unemployment compensation (although this federal program ended on Sept. 4), and workers aging out of the workforce. In fact, the pace of Baby Boomers retiring has accelerated in the past year according to Pew Research. We’re seeing similar trends in our region.
That’s why the Flint & Genesee Group has ramped up our efforts. Our 2021-23 Strategic Plan and Forward Together countywide vision for economic prosperity were the catalysts for developing strategies for talent, economic development and placemaking, which include the following:
Develop Talent (Prepare the people we have)
• Continue our educational programming and workforce readiness programs for youth and adults, and connect young people to their first jobs
• Connect talent to local employment opportunities (and vice versa) through career fairs (We just held the Genesee County Expo featuring over 120 employers with 2,000 jobs available)
• Support students in accessing and succeeding in higher education and certification programs (Flint Promise)
Retain Talent (Keep the people that we have prepared)
• Build leadership capacity through leadership development programming
• Expand experiences for interns and students to better familiarize and engage with our community
Attract Talent (Bring more people here to live, work and play)
• Pursue a talent attraction incentive program that targets individuals looking to relocate, who may or may not have previous ties to the region
• Partner with the state and other regions on events such as Back to Michigan, to attract Genesee County residents back to the area
I’ve highlighted just a few of our plans and there’s much more behind the curtain! However, we know that we cannot solve the shortage of talent overnight and we cannot solve this challenge alone. It requires a variety of stakeholders collaborating and working together.
To stay informed about our efforts to help businesses find the talent they need to fill their jobs and grow, visit FlintandGenesee.org for a view of our strategic plan and subscribe to our publications.
Tim Herman is the chief executive officer for Flint & Genesee Group