In a move that corresponds with her Cool Cities initiative, Gov.
Jennifer Granholm announced yesterday that she is creating a
commission in hopes of doubling the number of college graduates in
Michigan.

“We need a more educated workforce to improve the economy
of the state,” said Mary Dettloff, spokeswoman for
Granholm.

The Cherry Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth,
headed by Lt. Gov. John Cherry, will begin its work in June and
report its findings in January 2005.

“Our higher education system is the jet fuel that propels
our economy,” Granholm said in a news release. “If we
want a high-performance economy, we must work now to improve the
strength, depth and adaptability of our colleges and
universities.”

Similarly, in an effort to boost the economy, Cool Cities aims
to make Michigan cities more attractive to its young people.

According to population estimates recently released by the U.S.
Census Bureau, in the last three years Michigan has lost more than
41,000 people between the ages of 15 and 44.

According to Maura Campbell, spokeswoman for Cool Cities, the
key to a strong economy is attracting young people to the state
because business will follow them. “We don’t want as
many young people to leave and we want more young people to
come,” she said. “We are the exporter of our most
valuable commodity — intelligent young people, our best and
brightest.”

Only 34 percent of Michigan residents between the ages of 25 and
34 have bachelor’s or advanced degrees. Michigan is in the
bottom tier of states in terms of adults with post-secondary
degrees, Granholm’s office said.

The commission will have two main objectives —
“doubling the number of Michigan college graduates over the
next 10 years, making Michigan the national leader in producing
college graduates, and … ensuring that Michigan’s
system of higher education furnishes our citizens with the general
and specific skills they need to embrace the jobs of the 21st
century,” states the release.

To jumpstart the initiative, Cool Cities has collected more than
12,000 surveys from young people that researchers will soon begin
sorting through. After their analysis is complete, the information
on how cities can be improved will be distributed to the individual
communities.

“We will share our information, but it’s up to them
to make the connection with young people and make their city
cool,” Campbell said.

The Cool Cities taskforce in Ann Arbor is composed of a variety
of people: professors, students, recent graduates and community
members. “We’re charged with identifying reasons why
young people aren’t coming and why we’re not retaining
the ones that we have,” taskforce chair Conan Smith said.
“We’ve hashed out issues that we think need to be
addressed, like affordable housing, entrepreneurship, and support
for the arts.”

The taskforce is trying to change legislation to make Ann Arbor
more vibrant for young people. “The city’s noise
ordinance is something that we’ve been talking about. For
instance, Leopold’s can’t have live music and all the
bars have to close at 2 a.m. — which is pretty early. I think
live music is important to drawing a creative community,”
taskforce member and LSA senior Rob Goodspeed said.

True to Granholm’s worries, many students do plan to leave
the state after graduation. They feel that larger cities have more
to offer. “I’m staying for now, but I plan on
transferring out at some point. I don’t want to stay in
Michigan. I want to go to someplace like Chicago — to a real
city that’s not falling apart,” University alum Joshua
Bier said.

But other young people said they feel that Michigan cities are
already a great place to live. “I’m leaving because
they don’t have a podiatry school in Michigan.I think (the
cities in Michigan) are fine and if there was a podiatry school I
would have stayed,” LSA senior Jenny Gerteisen said.

Students and community members will have the opportunity to
voice their own opinion about improving the city in an event
sponsored by the Cool Cities taskforce of Ann Arbor today from 6 to
8 p.m. at the Arbor Brewing Co.

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