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Posted on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 3:12 p.m.

Mayor says attracting young professionals key to continued economic growth

By Ben Freed


Mayor John Hieftje addressed the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce at Weber's Inn in Ann Arbor Thursday afternoon.

Ben Freed |

Giving his second unofficial “state of the city” address in two days, Mayor John Hieftje told the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce Ann Arbor has turned the corner in its economic recovery.

The mayor said Ann Arbor’s recent population growth and strong job numbers have been buffeted by people staying in the city after college graduation, a time when many have traditionally moved away.

“One of the gaps we’ve had in Ann Arbor for years and years is we have University of Michigan students who are here but then leave town and then we have people 40 and over raising families,” Hieftje said. “But we need to attract young families and people who are starting their careers here in town.”

One key to attracting the millennial demographic simply has been making more jobs available, Hieftje said. The attraction of Google and other major technology companies to the downtown area has helped spurred the growth of a sector that tends to draw younger employees.

“The tech boom we’re experiencing with the new tech campus we have downtown and with new tech companies around the edges of the city as well are bringing in those workers who are 25 to 40 years old,” he said. “I think that’s going to be a real boost for us.”

Younger professionals also might help alleviate one of the challenges Hieftje said the city will have to overcome in order to stay on the right track.

“Right now, we’ve been building a lot of parking structures, but we’re going to have gridlock on our downtown streets by 2020 or 2025,” he said.

“We have to figure this transit problem out or jobs that could come here will go elsewhere because of those issues.”

Hieftje believes recent college graduates rely less on traditional forms of transportation and seek out places possessing a strong alternative transportation infrastructure.

“What I’ve seen in surveys is that is people in that younger age cohort are not interested in commuting to work in a car,” he said.

“They want to use transit, they want to live in close to where they work, they want to be around people and it’s just a different mindset.”

Many of the new downtown high-rises are geared towards Ann Arbor’s student population. However, The desire of young professionals coming to live in an “urban core” environment is encouraging developers to focus on a broader age-range.

“We have young professional-style buildings going up right now,” Hieftje said.

“Even one of the large ones that was just approved [at 413 E. Huron St.]. People think of it as student housing but, 62 percent of the building will be one and two bedroom housing, so I think you’ll see working people move into there.”

The mayor cautioned that Ann Arbor likely will not turn into a metropolis any time soon. He has committed to explore and expand transit options to help ease the pressures on downtown parking and transportation infrastructure, but new building projects only can take the city so far.

“There is a limit in downtown Ann Arbor because only about 40 percent of it can ever be redeveloped,” he said.

“There are historic districts down there and we’re not going to give those up, those are very important. So there’s a limit on what can change.”

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Get in touch with Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

Funny...Ann Arbor is trying to attract young professionals and Governor Snyder is trying to drive them out of the state!

craig stolefield

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 4:40 a.m.

Good to see things are negative as ever here. But, even for those commenting on this site, it is hard to deny Ann Arbor is doing way better than other cities, still winning "best of" awards, seeing crime go down, balancing the budget with a lower millage all the time, ever improving neighborhoods; getting better all the time. It's a great place to work, walk, bike, kayak, etc., or raise a family, and with the improving roads, drive! It's a great place to live!


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

Don't confuse the folks here with facts craig: the truth has no place in their fictional reality and the down votes come in.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 2:48 a.m.

What do we have here to attract young professionals? urban life? None. High pay jobs? some, but for the same type job, the pay here is about 30% less than in NY, Chicago ... Cost of living? not much cheaper here then in the big cities What do we have here to attract 35+ professionals? Good public schools? yes. Parks for kids and dogs? yes Houses, less than $500K, yes. What do we have here to attract 65+ professionals? Good Health care, Yes. public transportation, yes.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 12:20 a.m.

"There is a limit in downtown Ann Arbor because only about 40 percent of it can ever be redeveloped," Hieftje said. I guess our mayor is one of those people to whom you HAVE TO LISTEN TO for an hour or so before you can figure out what he's saying. If his point is that "historic structures" cannot be demolished for redevelopment, then I'd say he and his pals need a little "perspective restructuring." There has already been massive change in the downtown area (and a lot of needed businesses have either failed or moved away). Just maybe: a lot o this "change" has been caused by over-protectiveness of what SOME people think are of "historic importance." If Hieftje were an honest politician, he might have said that SIXTY PERCENT of the downtown properties are old and outdated for today's economy and culture. BUT we've decided to make protecting these properties from updating our priority. Of course, Mayor Hieftje is a great political leader: telling us that burglaries are now "home invasions." He's even got trend-setting parroting him on that point. Of course, Mayor Hieftje is a great political leader - he believes it himself and has even jumped on (joined) Mayor Michael Bloomberg's "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" gun control cadre. As if only a handful of mayors like him and Mikey B. are ALREADY against illegal guns. [ Geniuses for sure. ] Maybe some of that New York City glamor will rub off on our Johnny Hieftje. Hope and Change, Johnny, Hope and Change.

Gale Logan

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

You should check your facts, here's one that stands out: The FBI mandated the change from "burglaries" to "home invasions" when referring to what many call "breaking and entering."


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : midnight

Good luck with that one. Most UM grads want big houses and flashy cars. After being in Ann Arbor? That is not Ann Arbor. More like California or NY. Need to introduce them to what it is like after college. Most don't.

Dog Guy

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 11:23 p.m.

No matter what the question may be, Hieftje's answer is bicycles and taxpaid public transportation.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 4:25 p.m.

Heard of "walking"? Taxis? Zipcar? How did he rule those out?


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 3:41 p.m.

If the mayor were working at Wayne State University in Detroit rather than at the University of Michigan he would be speaking differently.


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 11:23 p.m.

The young professionals who can afford to move into the new highrise apartment buildings need to earn at least $90,000 annually due to the high cost of purchasing condos downtown or the expensive leasing rates needed to produce a profit for developers. Without the downtown offering yards and parks for kids (and dogs) and close-by schools, young professional families will continue to search for residences in the neighborhoods away from downtown.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 12:01 a.m.

agreed. This is not NY.


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 11:01 p.m.

Tech boom! Tech campus!! Tech corridor!!!


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 10:42 p.m.

"There is a limit in downtown Ann Arbor because only about 40 percent of it can ever be redeveloped," he said. Does that mean we can look forward to the last 40% of "redevelop-able" downtown becoming 14 stories high? Or will there be a much-needed review of the Downtown Zoning Plan that spares us that fate?

Larry Baird

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 10:27 p.m.

No offense to young professionals (I guess I was one once), but what Ann Arbor really needs are more young families with children. The AAPS budget situation would look a whole lot better if the average size household within the city was not shrinking. That demographic should be at the top of the list.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 4:30 p.m.

"But we need to attract young families and people who are starting their careers here in town." - Hieftje. It pays to read the article.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 9:50 p.m.

I'm curious why and how there has been an uncritical acceptance of this thesis: that the way to (utopia?) in Ann Arbor is to attract the storied young professionals, or, as they are sometimes called, "talent". Clearly, from the Mayor's comments, the reference is not to young professionals in general but to high-tech personnel. These seem to be the key to a future economic golden age for Ann Arbor. But what does it really mean? Would we try to make Ann Arbor into a new Silicon Valley? It is instructive to read the recent story in the New Yorker about Silicon Valley and the effects that this boom and culture has had in Palo Alto. It has made the city into a place that is not very diverse, does not support an ordinary middle-class population, and one that is peopled with young strivers who have little interest in political issues or ideals that do not directly support their ambitions. I don't dislike techies. I'm married to one. I want to see our community renew itself with young people, young families, young entrepreneurs of all types. But I think we need to step back and ask whether we are being presented with an overly simplistic outcome, and whether our policy decisions are being driven to support it.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

You're utterly missing his point. It's a *gap*. That's all he said. How you turn 'fixing a gap' into "the way to (utopia?)" is a little beyond me. And where did he say "try to make Ann Arbor into a new Silicon Valley"??? Come on, Vivienne, no need to resort to straw men.


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 10:57 p.m.

It's that last half-sentence - "whether our policy decisions are being driven to support it" - that worries me, and the answer is YES which is why it is so important that we don't fall for the hype and start making policy based upon it. Like yesterday's comment about those "1,000 tech jobs" in the "tech corridor". Hype.


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

Someone please remove this guy from office....


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 9:14 p.m.

Who do you have in mind for the job? And what of the 80% of the voters who voted him into office?


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

Buffeted? Buttressed, perhaps?

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 8:53 p.m.

"Right now, we've been building a lot of parking structures, but we're going to have gridlock on our downtown streets by 2020 or 2025," he said. It sounds like he is predicting a bunch more eminent domain and seizure of residential properties.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 12:11 a.m.

That is really a great public service that provides by refuting the various points raised by commenters that are unflattering to incumbents.

Ben Freed

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 9:06 p.m.

Nicholas. Sorry if this wasn't clear in the article but the mayor does not want to build any more parking structures. He said this explicitly a number of times over the past few days.


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 8:51 p.m.

"They want to use transit ..." Then let them pay for their "transit." What they seem to want is for other people to pay for their "transit."


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 10:25 p.m.

Well, I don't want to subsidize your oil and roads, either.


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 8:31 p.m.

Want to attract young professionals? Well, seeing that I am one, here's my list... Basic services: Fire, police and roads. None of ours meet national standards-check. low property taxes: ours are crazy high-check. build proper attractions: a ?@#$ poor cascades is NOT a whitewater park-check.


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

Eliminate all automobiles in Ann Arbor by 2020-2025 is what I'm reading into this..


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 4:28 p.m.

So your reading skills suggest you're *not* the desired demographic...

Roger Kuhlman

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 7:47 p.m.

As a real Environmentalist I do not favor continued economic and population growth in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. More growth means more loss of native ecosystems, natural habitats, and biodiversity in our region. Haven't we already lost enough of these wonderful things from the natural environment? You can't have ever upwards spiraling economic growth and consumption of natural resources and a healthy natural environment. You have to make a choice!


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 8:40 p.m.

There seems to be plenty of places that are economically stagnant, or even retrogressing, while economic growth becomes concentrated in fewer and fewer dynamic centers. I imagine that Ann Arbor will always tend to be more the latter than the former, given the existence of the University and the resulting constant supply of young, well educated, ambitious people. And a lot of money flowing through the economy, at least relative to other small cities. This does not seem to be an ideal place to find the kind of lifestyle you are looking for.


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 7:45 p.m.

We need to build flats, like they do in Chicago. Why don't we? The closest we have is neighborhoods like mine, full of 900-1200 sq. ft. houses. Good luck getting builders to build those anymore. But might be able to get builders to build flats. The buildings going up downtown are the right idea, but they're too big except in the downtown. Why not? Because this is Michigan, and we can't bring ourselves to believe that our "dream" of car ownership for all won't come true. My wife and I stayed here when we graduated from UM because we could find jobs, we could find a nice house, and we could both *bike to work*. Until the kids got to be teens, we only put about 5k per year on our car, taking trips to visit my wife's parents, who weren't accessible by train and bus. We still take most of our trips to Chicago by train or bus. And look out the window. Does gas at $4.20 per gallon still seem so dreamy?


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

The IRS says the reimbursement rate for business tax purposes is 55¢ per mile. That's supposed to be the full cost of driving the vehicle per mile. Google says that's a 484-mile round trip, so the cost of that trip is more like $266. And that's at last year's per gallon cost.


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 10:18 p.m.

I just checked Amtrak, from Ann Arbor to Chicago, 6-27-13, for 2 adults and 2 children, coach seats, was a total of $99. It was $132 for 4 adults. Meanwhile, a self park, parking structure in downtown Chicago runs about $40 a day to park the car at. So, the train doesn't look that bad, especially if you want to avoid the burden of having a car in downtown Chicago to deal with.


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

Train tickets to Chicago for four adults is $400 to $600 round trip, at that price two tanks of $4.20 / gal gas in my car is much more economical ("dreamy"). Maybe bus is cheaper than train, but not your own car. Of course if you pay any price to go green, go for it!