SW Michigan group working to retain local talent

By  | 

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. (WNDU) - Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties have seen a drop in population of 1.4%, or roughly 4,000 people from 2010-2018.

The Kinexus Group is looking to keep local talent in southwest Michigan, but they're up against what the bigger cities have to offer.

“If we don't recognize these challenges and issues and aren't intellectually honest with ourselves, then they never get addressed,” said Todd Gustafson, president and CEO Kinexus Group.

The Kinexus Group in Benton Harbor held a quarterly meeting Thursday to discuss a hot topic on a cold day.

"There's probably a lot of variables that affect why some people want to live somewhere,” said Jake Gustafson, chief operating officer at Kinexus Group.

They’re looking at the reasons for why southwest Michigan is losing workers.

"The worrisome long-term trend is that we're starting to see job openings contract, but unemployment is staying low; that means we're losing those millennials and that population,” said Al Pscholka, vice president of public relations at Kinexus Group.

The group works with companies in southwest Michigan and has identified reasons some people aren't attracted to the area.

One is transportation.

"Transportation ties into so many other pieces, and since we don't have a public transportation infrastructure, that means, by and large, transportation is tied around personal vehicle ownership," Gustafson said.

Another reason is access to housing.

"We've got local units of government that don't want multifamily housing. They would rather have single-family houses built. You get more taxes out of them, it’s a better use of land, so we don't have a lot of zoned land for multifamily residential," Pscholka said.

Rounding out the top three: financial concerns, those concerns related to managing unexpected expenses.

"Folks that are working, they're doing their level best to get ahead in this world and they're working hard, but are in a lower-wage job or entry-level or the expenses are too high for them and don't have the reserves. That capability to deal with that one emergency,” Gustafson added.

Other areas listed in order of prevalence in the data are issues with regard to access to food, utility delinquency, health, medical assistance, family relationships and child care.