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Michigan's population exodus shifts into reverse

February 09, 2012|By Kristin Bien (

The state that lost population during the 2010 census results may be stopping that trend. New numbers from the annual population census show fewer people appear to be leaving Michigan. Experts credit an improving economy which means more jobs.

For about the last 3 years there has been improvement in migration patterns, meaning less people are leaving Michigan for other states. The data is compiled by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

The graph shows Michigan's net migration has gotten back up to the average level.

So what does this all mean?

And are those numbers showing up in southwest Michigan?

Employees at at least one Modineer plant in Niles are making car parts for companies like Ford and General Motors. 

"We primarily do window panels and seat components," says COO Mike Stesiak as he walks into their automotive division.

Back in 2007 and 2008 though as the country hit rock bottom, so did the automotive division at Modineer. CEO Ed Hamilton and CFO Mike Stesiak called the building a "ghost town" ... employing only about 19 people. But now, it is one of Modineer's busiest plants ... 200 people work there ... and that number is expected to grow in the coming months.

"This particular cell will be running the new Malibu," says Stesiak as he points out a station inside the plant, "they (window sets) will be going to Fairfax, Missouri and Hamtramck, Michigan. This particular cell alone will generate 275,000 vehicle sets this coming year."

So, what changed?


Ken Darga, Michigan's state demographer, says the state is showing signs of improvement.

"Michigan usually leads the nation out of a recession," says Darga, "and that is what is happening again. This is what normally happens during a recession."

Darga points to new numbers released recently by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. Those stats show over the past 3 years, fewer people appear to be leaving Michigan for other states ... especially young adults. Darga says that could be because the economy is improving and more jobs are being added in the state. He says part of that is due to interest rates. As rates go down more people buy cars and more jobs are created in Michigan to deal with the demand.

Perhaps that is why the automotive division at Modineer is so busy.

"We will see some more growth in 2 to 3 months," says Modineer CEO Ed Hamilton, "it is great news."

The hope is it stays this way.

So how do we rank locally?

The 6th Congressional District, which is southwest Michigan, saw:

  • The state's 3rd highest in-migration rate overall.
  • The state's highest in migration rate for ages 35-39 and 65-69.
  • The state's third highest rate for ages 20-24.
  • The state's third highest rate for ages 45-49.
  • 1.3 percent of people living in southwest Michigan had moved in from other states in the prior year, compared with only 0.8 percent for the state as a whole.

The data isn't all pretty though: Check out the numbers for yourself.

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