From Loss to Gain

By Dave Isbell

(This post was originally written for the tedxLansing blog. I decided to include it here after reflecting back on last week’s MSU graduation ceremonies and the mass exodus that far too often happens on those occasions.)

It is no secret that Michigan has suffered population loss recently. Yet, few people realize that in the same time period Michigan has lost people, Mid-Michigan, has actually gained residents. (In fact, it was not long ago that the town I grew up in (Haslett) was listed in the top 25 places to live in the entire country!) What is drawing so many people to the Lansing area? I wish I could say it was the job market.

To be fair, the region is far better off than many other places in the state. It may not seem like it to the masses of unemployed, but the Lansing area has consistently offered opportunities for talented people. (Without a doubt, many of them are hard to find, and they are often filled before the employer ever needs to make the announcement public.) Yet, I’ve spoken with people from all over the country who have either moved back or transplanted to Mid-Michigan and many of them tell me that it is not because of a job. Nor are they coming here just to benefit from the much lower cost of living than in mega-cities where $900 per month can buy a person an apartment about the size of the average living room in the Lansing area. Certainly, a decent job and a low cost of living are important to them. Yet, these are not really the biggest deciding factors for many of these people.The number one thing I’m told is that it has to do with the community here.

People who are choosing to move to Mid-Michigan are literally drawn here by the people who live here and who are doing great things, despite the bleak hopelessness that mass media often reminds us we are supposed to feel these days. In short, these new (or returning) “Mid-Michiganites” are coming here because they want good neighbors, an opportunity to interact with them, and to be a part of something meaningful.

For many, the drive to come to Mid-Michigan is akin to what Maslow calls the drive for self-actualization. People’s deepest needs are rooted in wanting to be a part of something that matters, to make a difference, to be a better person than s/he was yesterday. In many ways, this is what is happening throughout Mid-Michigan. The Lansing area plays host to all kinds of people who are tired of bearing their burdens alone, or watching other people struggle in silence, and are pulling together to make a great place even better. It is a community that welcomes the innovative, the talented, and the creative, but is also willing to extend a helping hand to those people who need to be inspired toward greatness. Furthermore, it is not just a place to live, it is community of people who have high hopes for humanity and will continue to work tirelessly for a dream of a better place to work, live, and play. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

(For more information about Lansing people, events, and information, click on the links I incorporated in the above text, check out the TedxLansing blog, and jump into the #lovelansing conversations on Twitter!)

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Dave Isbell is the Alumni Career Service Coordinator at Michigan State University. He has been a Career Coach since 1999. He is also currently pursuing a Master’s in Social Work/Family Studies at MSU. When he is not working or studying, he is enjoying domestic bliss with his wife and kids, or playing rock music on his bass guitar. He has lived in Mid-Michigan his entire life. You can find him on Twitter (@helpingspartans) and sometimes he writes about compassion, collaboration, and career for his own blog, www.spartanshelpingspartans.com.

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