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Garlin Gilchrist is exactly the kind of talent that Detroit needed after the economic collapse crippled this once-powerful city. But after the skilled software developer graduated from the University of Michigan, he left the state.
Who could blame him? The engineering student had a job offer with Microsoft in Seattle, offering him a healthy paycheck, an attractive lifestyle, and technical skills that would lead to future top jobs in Washington, with activist groups such as MoveOn.org. Michigan, beginning a slump that would last for the better part of a decade, couldn't offer him that.
Gilchrist is far from alone in taking this path. It's fitting that he left Michigan in 2004. It's the year young people started fleeing for jobs elsewhere. After 2004, more people ages 22 to 34 left Michigan than came in, according to census data. At its lowest moment in 2006, 68,000 young people moved away from Michigan. And while those numbers have improved gradually in recent years, the state was still losing millennials as of 2012. And worse, the millennials who were leaving Michigan at a highest rate were those with a bachelor's degree or more.
Michigan is in the midst of a brain drain. Young people leave their home state for better career opportunities, more efficient and widespread public transportation, and an attractive urban routine. But there are some native Michiganders who have decided to make the move back home despite the state's stigma, bucking the decade-old trend. Gilchrist is one of them.
After nine years, he finally decided to come home in July. Gilchrist always planned on returning to Michigan, it was just a matter of time. Like many people from the area, he never really lost his pride in Detroit. He speaks fondly of his younger years growing up on the east side of town. And despite moving to the suburb of Farmington when he was 8, he still went to the city several times of week to visit his grandparents, participate in after-school programs, and compete in basketball leagues. As he jokes, "I probably played on every basketball hoop in the city of Detroit."
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