In an area of the country that is associated with not only the automotive industry but also poverty and government corruption, the Great Lakes region is starting to shake its bad reputation.
Midwestern states from Minnesota to western Pennsylvania have sustained recent growth in a young, educated population as well as a revival in several core industries such as energy, logistics and manufacturing. Also, all of the Great Lakes states, with the exception of Illinois, currently have unemployment rates below the national average - a significant change from earlier years.
Michigan, which has been plagued by years of economic decline and increased governmental troubles, has recently been described as the “biggest success story” as the state has added 302,543 jobs between November 2009 through July 2015. This represents a 7.2% increase.
The improved economic conditions in the Great Lakes region is mostly due to the nation’s revival of industrial industries. In fact, the fastest growth in industrial jobs over the past few years has been in Warren, Detroit and Grand Rapids - all cities in Michigan.
Additional political and structural factors also contribute to the growing recovery in the Great Lakes region. For example, the North American energy boom and rising wages in China have allowed American companies to be cost-competitive. The energy prices in the United States are generally significantly less than in other countries.
In the past, the Great Lakes region has suffered a mass exodus of people seeking more stable and nicer areas of the country. That is not the case anymore. Thousands of people, seeking more affordable costs of living have recently migrated to the region. The area also boasts the greatest increase in movement of younger, college-educated individuals and families.
Moreover, it should be noted that the Great Lakes region is home to a plethora of engineers - more than any other area of the United States. Outside of the social media and search industries, which generally are headquartered in California and Oregon, much of the nation’s industrial engineering takes place in the Great Lakes region. In fact, many of the earliest advances in self-driving vehicles were made not by Google but rather John Deere.
One area of Michigan is referred to as “automation alley,” where computer software meets the actual manufacturing metal. Many companies in the area are producing computer-controlled systems for automobile companies as well as factory efficiency software.
The region’s continued success is contingent upon a few factors - such as possible EPA greenhouse regulations, which could force many coal-fired plants to shut down - and international concerns - such as China’s devaluation of its currency. A stronger American dollar leads to more expensive exports. These factors may not affect the industries on the West and East coasts, but will likely affect the Midwest, where the states are greatly independent on manufacturing industries.
However, if these factors generally remain stable, and if the Great Lakes region continues to grow its core industries while expanding into new industries, it is definitely looking up for the individuals who live in the area and for the nation as a whole.