There’s no question Michigan was one of the states hit hardest by the recession.
At the height of the recession, Michigan had a statewide unemployment rate of 14 percent, while Detroit's 17.7 percent unemployment rate in July 2009 was one of the nation's highest, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However, as the local economy strengthens, some parts of the state are doing very well. In fact, Lansing, Mich. has emerged as one of the nation's healthiest markets, according to the top 10 metros with highest occupancy rates list.
Lansing was the second-most well occupied market in the nation, according to Axiometrics. The city reported occupancy of 97 percent in the fourth quarter of last year with only Naples, Fla. being higher on the list with 97.5 percent.
Owners and operators nationwide raised their eyebrows to see smaller secondary markets so high on the Dallas-based research firm’s list. Jeff Barnum, a property director at Edward Rose & Sons, says he was surprised that the Lansing area is doing so well.
“For us, personally, Grand Rapids, (Mich.) and Kalamazoo, (Mich.) tend to be stronger,” Barnum says.
He manages more than 60 properties across 10 states including Michigan and Indiana.
Barnum says Michigan State University students are part of the reason for high occupancy. Students who want to live near campus, which is located in East Lansing, Mich., often end up renting in Lansing since the city’s extensive bus system caters to students who want to commute. Spartan enrollment for fall of 2013 and spring of 2014 was up to 49,300, about 400 students more than the school year before, according to Axiometrics data.
Another contributing factor to the growth of the Lansing area is the return of many autoworkers as the American car industry recovers from the recession. Barnum says one of the company’s Lansing properties saw a boost in 2010 from the return of General Motors workers.
The city plans to see more job growth as it welcomes a $44.5 million optimization plant being added by General Motors to set the stage for production of the Chevrolet Camaro in the future, the city’s mayor, Virg Bernero, noted in his State of the City address on Jan. 30. The plant will add 200 new jobs to the existing GM Lansing Grand River plant, according to the company. Bernero also noted during the address that the area has had 27 straight months of job growth.
Bernero’s outlook for the upcoming year was bright and hopeful.
“We’re in a new global economy where success will require us to drive the innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and partnership that enables us to compete and win,” Bernero says. “We can compete. And we will win.”
Lindsay Machak is an Associate Editor for Multifamily Executive. Connect with her on Twitter @LMachak.