Over the course of the last few months, Flint & Genesee Group COO Kristina Johnston has been doing a “road show” for local municipalities and other groups across the county. The presentation shares progress made on Forward Together, an economic vitality plan that aims to make Genesee County a top-five community in Michigan based on jobs, talent, livability and equity by 2040.
The presentation – included below for easy reference – touches on multiple elements of the plan, with a specific focus on the plan’s five indicators of success. These metrics provide insight into our economic prosperity and allow our community to measure its progress in comparison to other communities in Michigan.
For, instance, in 2019, the average wage for Genesee County was $879 per week, putting the region at 22nd out of 83 counties in the state. According to latest numbers, in 2021, that increased to $957 per week.
“This is good movement. However, it doesn’t mean we’re keeping up,” says Johnston, noting that other counties in the state are moving faster in terms of average wages. Genesee County’s ranking dropped slightly to 24th, with Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Midland and Macomb counties leading the way.
“But (improving our ranking) is attainable,” Johnston adds. “When we attract businesses that pay higher wages, we could see ourselves moving up.”
In the indicator of net in-migration – the number of people coming in and leaving our community – we saw a loss of about a thousand people in 2018, putting Genesee County at 78th out of 83 counties. “Loss of population or loss of working age people is probably one of the largest threats to our community,” Johnston notes.
In regard to educational achievement, in 2018, 32 percent of our residents over the age of 25 had a post-secondary degree. By 2020, we gained one percentage point, but fell in the rankings from 29th to 35th. According to Johnston, raising this metric along with net in-migration is critical, and has the power to influence many of the other metrics in a positive way.
One area where Genesee County is seeing strong gains is GDP growth rate. From 2017 to 2018, we were growing at a .88 percent rate, putting our community at 49th out of 83 counties. From 2019 to 2020, that rate increased to 1.17percent, pushing Genesee County to 20th. “This really speaks to business growth and the health of those businesses being created and coming to our community,” says Johnston.
In 2021, Genesee County had a family poverty rate of 12.9 percent. While that’s great that poverty levels are declining the county is still at 81st out of 83 counties. “That’s significant. Other places that are doing well with this are Livingston County, Leelanau, Clinton, Ottawa and Oakland, so we have a long way to go.” But by addressing some of the aforementioned indicators – attracting people to the community, driving up wages and increasing educational attainment – Johnston predicts we can pull more people out of poverty.
According to Johnston, she’s often asked if she can pull out the data for a particular community within the county. Sometimes she can, sometimes she can’t. Ultimately, however, the information is most impactful when viewed as a whole.
“The health of any one of our municipalities is dependent upon the health of the others,” she says. “(We need) to make sure we’re all thinking collectively and have a common goal in mind.”
To watch the full presentation, which takes a deeper dive into the background of Forward Together and some of the related data, check out the recording below. More information is also available at forwardtogethergenesee.org.