Initiative to tackle population growth underway in Berrien County

NOW: Initiative to tackle population growth underway in Berrien County

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- An initiative is underway to tackle stagnant population growth in southwest Michigan. 

Community leaders say it’s one of the biggest issues the area faces. 

“Human capital is probably the most important thing to economic development,” said Christina Frank. “Without people you don’t have a workforce so you cannot attract or retain employees to come into the area.”

Frank is the vice president of external affairs at Cornerstone Alliance. 

Cornerstone Alliance and several other community partners just launched a multimedia recruitment campaign called ‘Vacay Every Day.’

The goal is to increase Berrien County’s population by 10 percent over the next 10 years from 155,000 to 170,000.  

“Vacay Every Day,” said Frank. “You could be on vacation if you live here in Southwest Michigan every day.” 

The initiative will target the thousands of people who vacation in southwest Michigan each year and encourage them to make the area their permanent home. 

It will focus on the diverse seasons, opportunities, and people in southwest Michigan. 

Frank says ‘Vacay Every Day’s’ TV, radio, billboard, and social media outreach will direct people to a website. Once there, people will fill out a form then they will receive a packet of information with the job, housing, entertainment, and education opportunities in Berrien County. 

“With an increased population comes increased taxes, more homes that are being sold, more children in the schools, better infrastructure and then those other ammenities that we all love, you know the shopping,” said Frank. 

According to Frank, tourists come to southwest Michigan for a short period of time with a specific to-do list, so they oftern don’t realize the opportunities available that could let them live in a place they love to vacation in.  

“We have thousands of people that come to southwest Michigan every single year to vacation and I was saying last week, we are so blessed to live in a place where people spend an entire year saving their time, saving their money to vacation here,” said Frank. “We need to be telling them how great it is to actually live here.” 

In 2017, Michigan recognized its lower birth rate since 1945. In 2018, a U.S. Census Bureau report said the population in Berrien County declined by 1.7 percent from 2010-2018. 

Rob Cleveland, the president and CEO of Cornerstone, says if current population trends continue, with human capital and economic development, other areas of the southwest Michigan community, like th schools and entertainment opportunities, will deteroriate. 

“The goal of the campaign is to create an emotional connection for somebody to say, ‘Hey look if we’re looking for a new place to start, if we’re looking for a place to go, where we can have great schools for our children, a place where we can enjoy all four season all year round,’ then  we want them to think of Michigan’s great southwest,” said Cleveland. 

To visit the website, click here.

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