By Molly Cassidy
Meridian Times staff writer
The 2010 Census shows Michigan is the only U.S. state that lost people in the past 10 years, but Meridian Township weathers the storm with job opportunities and housing costs in hopes of a turnaround.
The census is a survey given every 10 years by the U.S. Census Bureau to collect relevant data on the people and the economy.
Nobody answered the phone when Amber Elliot, 50, called the U.S. Census to say she has lived in Michigan her whole life, but didn’t submit her census and wanted her family to be accounted for.
“I’ve watched Meridian Township grow and was here before some things were and I haven’t seen it ever quite this bad. This is a real slow turnaround and I’ve almost lost my house and I’ve been in it 20 years,” Elliot said.
After losing $40,000 in equity on her house in the past five years, Elliot plans to go back to school in the medical field.
“If I’m going back to school at 50 years old, I need something that is secure. Michigan doesn’t have a lot to fall back on. I love Michigan, I get mad at winter, I get mad at the hot summer, I get mad at bugs, blah, blah, but it’s all I know,” Elliot said.
Elliot was laid off for 20 weeks after working with Dakkota Integrated Systems LLC in the auto industry for eight years and will be laid off permanently before this summer.
Though data shows the economy is still down, websites such as www.indeed.com have jobs available at AT&T, Macy’s and JCPenney among others at Meridian Mall.
Tony Routley, an assistant manager at AT&T in Meridian Mall, which is one company currently seeking employment according to www.indeed.com, chose to move back to Michigan in February from Toledo for work.
“The idea that the economy is down is mind boggling to me because there are a lot of people in here spending money,” Routley said.
“I would think that the reason why, and I think it’s a misconception, that the reason why people are moving out of Michigan is because they think the economy is so much better everywhere else and they’re going for greener pastures,” Routley said.
Routley said as long as people continue to look for jobs, they will find them. With summer releasing more people into the job market, some residents have found it beneficial to hold more than one.
Pamela Deyarmond, a Meridian resident six months of the year when she is not living on Mackinac Island, said she was hired in December as a Macy’s sales associate in Meridian Mall.
“I feel like even after Christmas when I assumed people would be getting laid off they were still hiring,” Deyarmond said.
Deyarmond said around five of her friends have moved out of Michigan to find new jobs. Deyarmond currently works at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island as well.
“I have a lot of my friends who’ve recently become unemployed even after working a good six or seven years at a company then getting laid off,” Deyarmond said. Deyarmond said the reason she is staying in Michigan is because she likes her jobs and her family is here.
Debbie McCarthy works as a Realtor in the Greater Lansing area and said, loss of jobs have produced many foreclosures and the value of the dollar will not pay for what it once could.
“Michigan has got to be one of the worst economies right now,” McCarthy said. “This is really just an unprecedented time. I’ve never seen anything like this before with so many foreclosures it is unbelievable. The housing market is just upside down.”
With 228 homes for sale in Okemos as of May 3 according to www.zillow.com , McCarthy said the positive is that people looking to buy are getting homes priced right with low interest rates.
“It is really good that people are buying houses now because people who could only rent before are able to buy their own home,” McCarthy said, though mortgages are tougher to get with companies making customers jump through hoops.
It is the pride in ownership and having a place to call your own within a community which Realtors in the area are hoping will prompt home sales. Because of the slow housing market, McCarthy said Realtors have taken a hit as well with around 1,800 agents in the past down to around 800 today.
Mike Wheeler is a Realtor in the area for Tomie Raines Inc. and said his clients that have downsized, are staying around the area.
“It is nowhere near what it was five or 10 years ago, but Meridian Township area is stronger for home sales,” Wheeler said.
With almost 50 percent of sales over the past six months having been with distressed properties, Wheeler said the good news is that in U.S. recorded history there has never been a better time to buy a home.
“A lot of this goes hand in hand with the auto industry that has supported Michigan for so long,” Wheeler said. “The good news is foreclosures in my opinion have already hit rock bottom in Michigan. It is going to get worse for the rest of the country because along with California, Nevada and Arizona, Michigan proceeds the rest of the country, but we also proceed in accession, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.”