West Michigan Policy Forum Calls for Action to Grow Michigan’s Population

September 18, 2023

TO: Michigan Population Commission

Co-chairs John Rakolta and Shirley Stancato

Individuals and families seek what is best in order to flourish. There are many places in this country to have a fulfilling life. In the past 50 years, Michigan has had periods of modest growth in population, but is again experiencing out-migration. Last year, Michigan was in the bottom 20 states for growth. As we consider those trends, it is apparent that public policy matters.

Many of us know how wonderful our state is, but as we see other states grow it clearly isn’t competing well enough. Whether someone is mid-career or graduating from school they look first for career opportunities and then to the community they want to live in. We’re confident that if we can attract and grow the employers needed to offer these careers here then Michigan’s splendor will land people here. As we live and work in an area of Michigan that is continuing to grow, we offer these basic ideas as ways to ensure that more families and individuals can build fulfilling lives over the coming decades in an environment of vibrant businesses, great education, and natural beauty:

Improve K-12 Education Opportunities

  • Achieve simple but clear accountability – Michigan currently ranks 43 overall nationally based on the most recent data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Parents deserve clear and understandable metrics and teachers deserve the freedom to teach. Every child must learn to read by the 3rd grade so they can read to learn for the rest of their life. Therefore, the state must remove red tape and ensure every child can read before moving past the 3rd
  • Fund students, not systems: because every child is unique and all children deserve access to a quality education, the state should offer every child access to all options that may work for them; regardless of their zip code or family’s income via Education Savings Accounts (ESAs).


  • Support full transportation needs in Michigan via revenue-neutral shift to meet future vehicle characteristics (gas, electric, CNG, etc.) Michigan drivers and consumers deserve infrastructure that works, without making it more expensive to provide jobs or get to work or school in our state.


  • Michigan residents currently pay one of the highest state tax burdens, ranking as the twenty-ninth worst state for state and local income tax burdens per capita. Texas, Nevada, Washington and Florida are each among the fastest growing states in the country as well as states with no income tax: it is essential that the overall tax burden on state residents does not increase, and that further due to the growth in states with no income tax it is time to identify a responsible transition that eliminates Michigan’s personal income tax.


  • Since it is a key screener for opportunity, and regularly among the top five issues for site selectors: Return Michigan to the top of job attraction options and return control to workers’ freedom to choose by reinstating Right to Work.
  • Remove barriers for work through reforming licensing regulations.

Safe Communities

  • Because people’s security will drive many decisions on where to live:  The public’s safety must be a top priority.  Policies must protect law abiding citizens and respect private property while being smart on crime.  Law enforcement must be supported, trained and resourced so they can assure needed staffing for their community and safe neighborhoods for all residents.


  • Move the Michigan Economic Development Corporation away from offering incentives and instead to removing barriers. Make the MEDC a one-stop office for current or prospective employers to navigate and receive the approvals they need to create jobs in Michigan with no permit decision to exceed 90 days.
  • Reinstate Michigan’s competitiveness by returning requirements for legislative action or special circumstances for regulations more stringent than our neighboring states.

Energy Prices

  • Since Michigan residents and job providers need reliable and affordable energy to live, learn and work in Michigan: Remove mandates that artificially inflate the costs of energy production and ensure a stable system that produces and delivers consistently as we move to more demand for electricity.


  • Because the cost of health care impacts residents, employees and employers, policy should reduce barriers to provider care and restrictions to supply that limit access and elevate costs.

Efficient and Effective Government

  • Since the cost of government is borne by the residents and employers in a community, and state budgets continue to set spending records, government services must be prioritized for key services and efficiencies must be gained for effective results. Therefore, the population commission must resist the temptation to seek to expand total government costs and raise the expenses borne by Michigan workers, residents and job providers.

Thank you,

John Kennedy

WMPF Chair

Full Board of Directors

Letter to ‘Growing Michigan Together Council’ outlines policies proven to increase prosperity for all citizens

GRAND RAPIDS – (Sept. 19, 2023) – Leaders of the West Michigan Policy Forum have sent Gov. Whitmer’s “Growing Michigan Together Council” nine proven policy recommendations to help reverse the trend of Michigan’s population loss. The policy recommendations focus on removing barriers, increasing accountability and giving choices to all Michiganders.

The Policy Forum’s recommendations include eliminating Michigan’s personal income tax, removing barriers to job growth instead of offering incentive packages, and resisting the temptation to raise taxes on Michigan workers, residents and job providers.

“We’ve spent our lives committed to growing Michigan’s economy and jobs through entrepreneurship and community service,” said John Kennedy, WMPF chairman. “There is a real opportunity to put Michigan back on the right track. The simple truth is you can’t grow the population without jobs, and you can’t create jobs with policies that are anti-employer.”

In 2023, the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Whitmer enacted policies that will make Michigan less enticing for job creation and population growth. These include the repeal of Right-to-work (RTW) and ending transparency for Michigan schools by repealing A-F grading. Currently, the proposed paid leave legislation threatens to both tax workers and reduce businesses’ ability to grow jobs.

“These recent policies take Michigan in the wrong direction. As we’ve seen time and time again, policies matter,” said Kennedy. “There are proven ways to grow the economy and we’ve seen it work over the past several decades when implemented. We’ve also seen the decline when policy in the opposite direction is implemented. It’s time to focus on what works: good schools, strong businesses and safe communities. The WMPF will always advocate for the proven policies that support all Michiganders achieve success and prosperity.”

To compile the list of recommendations, the WMPF Board of Directors reviewed policies that helped bring Michigan out of the 2008 recession and policies currently creating explosive economic expansion in the top growing states and communities around the country. For example, the top five fastest growing states – Florida, Idaho, South Carolina, Texas and South Dakota – are all Right-to-work states. Three of the top five states also have no income tax.

Kennedy said Michigan must remove barriers to attract more large-scale economic development projects, especially after the Great Lakes State lost out to Tennessee for Ford’s new electric vehicle and battery mega-site that will employ 6,000 new workers. Tennessee is a RTW state, has no income tax and offers Education Savings Accounts to their students. The creation of ESAs also is a Policy Forum recommendation to the council.

The Policy Forum also warned against further growth in unnecessary government programs and state revenue. This approach has been demonstrated to stunt growth and opportunity.

Those interested in growing Michigan’s population through proven policies can contact the WMPF for ways to partner.

“There are a lot of great organizations throughout Michigan that support economic opportunities. We encourage them to look at our recommendations and join our effort to implement proven policies that will grow Michigan,” Kennedy concluded.

For more information on the WMPF, please visit wmpolicyforum.com.