Drivers of Economic Performance in Michigan - Summary Report

February 3, 2012
by Soji Adelaja, Melissa Gibson, John Paskus, Brian Klatt, Yohannes Hailu, Tyler Borowy, Benjamin Calnin and Edward Schools

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A report detailing the natural features, green infrastructure and social/cultural amenities for the state is available from the MSU Land Policy Institute (LPI) in partnership with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI). The study, Drivers of Economic Performance in Michigan: Natural Features, Green Infrastructure and Social/Cultural Amenities, expands the scope of natural amenities beyond those considered in previous studies, by including specific ecological variables measured at the local level and by focusing on place assets.

The Institute partnered with MNFI, an MSU Extension program, on this study to provide a greater understanding not only of Michigan’s diverse natural features and green infrastructure amenities, but also of the potential for a nature-based economic development strategy for the state. This partnership offers a preliminary, but important, opportunity to better understand the relationships that exist between the environment and the economy. The economic analysis here can serve as the basis for further research on how the environment is linked to economic success and prosperity.

The key issue of focus in this study is exploring the roles of green infrastructure and other natural features in economic growth. The analysis delves to a new level of detail about green infrastructure and other natural features by accounting for specific statewide variables, many of which are only available from MNFI.

Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the Michigan Center for Geographic Information, the U.S. Geological Survey and others, the report examines, in depth, three types of growth—employment, income and population—as well as overall effects of social/cultural, natural features and green infrastructure amenities, and their role in economic development in Michigan jurisdictions (cities, townships and villages) from 1990-2000. Report findings about green infrastructure include:

  • For each additional State Forest Campground in a jurisdiction, the number of employed people increased by 27.
  • Each acre of an inland lake a jurisdiction has translated into an additional $4.80 in per capita income.
  • If a jurisdiction was identified as having important or significant bird habitat, population was expected to increase by 136 people.
  • Each additional marina in a jurisdiction was associated with an additional 34 employed people.

A key finding from this analysis is that natural features, green infrastructure and other natural amenities not only deliver individual pecuniary benefits, but that they influence the economies of places.