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michigan governor rick snyder talks with kid reporter charlie kadado Michigan Governor Rick Snyder talks with Scholastic News Kid Reporter Charlie Kadado about the 2010 Census and the population drop in the state. (Photo courtesy Charlie Kadado)

Detroit Population Drops

Michigan Governor pledges regrowth for 2020 census

By Charlie Kadado | April 26 , 2011

Detroit, Michigan lost a quarter of its population in the last decade according to recently released 2010 Census figures. It is the biggest loss of any city in the U.S., besides New Orleans, which lost 29 percent following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"The economic disaster in Detroit and in Michigan has caused the population to drop," Michigan Governor Rick Snyder told Scholastic News in an interview in his office recently. "Now that I am Governor, we need to turn around Michigan's economy, because the main focus we need in the state is more and better jobs."

Every 10 years, the U.S. Constitution mandates that the Census Bureau conduct a population count to determine the distribution of electoral votes, congressional seats, and government funding programs. According to the newly released 2010 count, the current population in the U.S. is about 309 million, a 9.7 percent increase since the last census count in 2000.

The new figures rearranged congressional seats and electoral votes around the nation. Southern states gained seats, while those in the Northeast and Midwest lost. Michigan lost an electoral vote and seat in the House of Representatives, while Texas gained four congressional seats and Florida, two.

"Unfortunately, we have lost seats in the last four decades," said Detroit 2020 Executive Producer Glen Bar. "By creating a positive economic growth, we can stop that from happening in the next 10 years and hopefully get some seats back."

Detroit 2020 is a campaign founded by TV station WXYZ. The local news station hopes to help Detroit get back on track by the year 2020.

"We have talked to a number of people about the census," anchor Stephen Clark said, referring to his station's coverage of the decline. "Kurt Metzger, an analyst with Data Driven Detroit, has an opinion that the drop in population was caused by the drop in manufacturing and competition with foreign manufacturers, which sparked a decline in neighborhood morale, which encourages crime, which discourages growth."

The city's population is at about 713,000 people, moving from the fourth largest to the 18th largest city in the nation. Reporters at WXYZ have witnessed the population change firsthand.

"Channel 7 has a big voice and our general manger said that rather than using that voice to send out what is wrong, we can send out what is right," Clark said.

Abandoned homes are magnets for crime, so the City of Detroit is now demolishing houses in low population neighborhoods to shrink the city's physical footprint.

"You have a city that once had 2 million people living in it and now has 715,000 people," Barr said. "There is a lot of open space now."

Detroit is best known as the "Motor City" because it is home to the "Big Three" automakers: Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. That industry has been especially hard hit by economic hard times.

"The auto industry restructuring [in 2008] certainly was a factor of the drop in the census numbers," Governor Snyder said. "But that is behind us now and they are actually going into a positive path now, which is exciting."

The Governor is working to create new ideas to bring people back to Michigan.

"As they graduate from college and they come out of school, by having a job here, it creates an opportunity for them to stay here and hopefully raise their families here as well," the Governor said.

Governor Snyder is confident that Michigan and the city of Detroit can get back on track.

"Detroit has a lot of positive things going for it," he told Scholastic News. "We need to market those and share those. I am confident that Michigan can thrive and create an environment that can make us grow faster than the rest of the country."

Clark says the Governor is taking the right approach.

"It takes political leadership and the focus of the media that shows that perception is reality to keep Detroit on task with the help of Detroit 2020," Clark said.

Detroit 2020 is focused on just that.

"Our motto for Detroit 2020 is unify, inspire, and act," Bar said. "We are looking at the challenges facing the Detroit region as we head into the year 2020. We are looking at what works in the area and what doesn't work. Our goal is to make this a better place to live, work, and raise families."

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