Sunday, April 5, 2009

Leaving Michigan Behind: Eight-year population exodus staggers state

Outflow of skilled, educated workers crimps Michigan's recovery
Ron French and Mike Wilkinson / The Detroit News

Joe LaCross drives American cars. Always has. Born and raised in the blue-collar suburbs of Detroit, this son of a welder wouldn't dream of rolling past his autoworker neighbors in a Toyota. But not long ago the 38-year-old pulled into the driveway of his Sterling Heights home in a vehicle wreaking even more havoc in his home state.

A moving van.

"We're home-grown," lamented Dave Stefanic, a former Ford engineer, who with his surgical assistant wife, Cindi, moved to South Carolina in January, leaving behind the dream home they built in Brownstown Township. "To have to leave Michigan because of the economy ... it's depressing."

Dave and Cindi both have college degrees. Dave was laid off from Ford six months ago, but didn't put his house on the market for four more months, hoping to find work in the area. "All the offers I got were out of state," he said.

Gina Damuth's husband, Fred Damuth, was laid off from Pfizer in 2007. Later that year, they moved from Farmington Hills to North Carolina.

Now, Gina Damuth has convinced her parents to move to North Carolina, too.

"I feel so bad for the people stuck in Michigan," said Damuth, 34. "I was in the Detroit area recently and I didn't realize the number of people who walk with their head down. You can see it if you pay attention -- nobody smiles, everybody looks depressed. My dad says it's scarier now. People are talking about how they don't know if Michigan is going to recover this time." FULL STORY

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