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Labor and Economic Opportunity

Michigan 'boldly goes where no state has gone before' in hunt to fill employers' talent pipeline gap

More than 30 organizations statewide join public-private partnership that’s staging Michigan House event at SXSW in Texas with aim to recruit ‘new collar’ job seekers, improve perceptions of Great Lakes State as a place to call home

Michigan House Contact: Ted Velie, 616-258-3322
Ted Contact: Erica Quealy, 517-582-2961

Feb. 20, 2019


LANSING, Mich.—Recruiters with some of Michigan’s largest and most innovative high-tech and creative companies are gathering for the South by Southwest Music, Film, and Interactive Conference and Festival (SXSW) this March in Austin, Texas – but not to listen to music at the heralded concert scene.

They’re looking to hire “new collar” millennials and skilled-talent workers from across the country who will attend SXSW March 8-12, as well as change perceptions of Michigan as a place to live and make a living. The term “new collar” is a play on “blue-collar job” that originated with IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, relating to the company's efforts to increase the number of people qualified for technology careers.

“When deciding on their career path, millennials want to know more than just job opportunities – they want to explore all of their options to live, work and play before making any commitments to an employer,” said Stephanie Beckhorn, Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan acting director. “We’re excited to see statewide talent attraction partners and businesses teaming up to highlight the many reasons why Michigan offers the best of both worlds.”

It’s the fifth consecutive year that Michigan House has represented at SXSW, and the 2019 itinerary is the most ambitious yet, organizers say. Several municipalities and even some foreign nations stage programs similar to Michigan House during SXSW, but Michigan is the first and only state with such a robust presence.

“Attraction and retention are hot-button priorities for businesses of all size throughout Michigan,” said Ted Velie, a co-founder of Michigan House, a public-private partnership that serves as an experiential embassy at the SXSW conference by promoting Michigan’s career and lifestyle opportunities featuring the state’s premier attractions.

“SXSW provides a unique pathway to connect with a highly sought-after demographic, and our Michigan House activities offer an ideal environment designed to make a great first impression of everything our state has to offer,” Velie said. “Michigan has to boldly go where no other state has gone before because we recognize the critical importance of helping employers dispel the myth that Michigan is still a ‘Rust Belt’ state.”

Current partners include Creative Many Michigan, Start Garden, Quicken Loans, Spectrum Health, Maven Car Sharing, StockX, Faurecia, Brightly, Bell’s Brewery, Seamless IoT, NEI, the Detroit Regional Chamber, Planet M, the North American International Auto Show, P3 Group, Bedrock, Ann Arbor Spark, Whirlpool, Amway, Steelcase, Wakestream Ventures, Bloomscape, The Ten, Cahoots, Rocket Fiber, May Mobility, Detroit Venture Partners, Varnum, HR Collaborative, Management Business Solutions, Repurpose and the Grand Rapids SmartZone.

Michigan House is still accepting additional 2019 partners through March 1. Employers looking to register and join the Michigan House events at SXSW can send emails to Velie at

The membership-based talent recruitment agencies Let’s Detroit, Hello West Michigan, Ann Arbor Spark, Southwest Michigan First and Lansing 501 provide marketing and consulting support toward the effort, including sharing information about job openings, candidate information and resumes. Their focus is on a specific SXSW demographic: 43 percent of festival-goers are between ages 21 and 34 and 27 percent have careers in management, followed by 23 percent in creative development, 17 percent in “something else,” 15 percent in sales and marketing, 10 percent in business development and 8 percent in communications and public relations.

Over the past five years, more than 120 Michigan-based companies and economic development agencies from 15 counties have participated in the Michigan House campaign at SXSW, generating over 350,000 social media interactions, garnering 80,000 livestream views of Michigan-specific videos and drawing nearly 11,000 visitors who spend an average of at least 45 minutes listening, learning and getting inspired by Michigan business recruiters and human resource executives.

“Michigan has become synonymous with innovation and technology,” said Whitney Eichinger, Bedrock’s vice president of public relations. “Michigan House provides the perfect platform to showcase some of our state’s most exciting startups – it’s a valuable tool that all employers can use to identify and attract global talent who are arriving this year in Austin.”

Among the 2019 highlights being unveiled by Michigan House during the festival are:

  • Taking over a new location March 8-10 in a two-story downtown Austin coworking space called The Refinery that has capacity for 450 people and features conference rooms, built-in kitchens and bars.
  • Hosting the Michigan House Mobility Day in collaboration with Planet M, the Detroit Regional Chamber and Ann Arbor Spark, including a luncheon and “mobility mixer” with made-in-Michigan food and drink and music from Michigan bands.
  • A booth at the SXSW Job Market on the trade show floor that will feature partner companies from around Michigan, in addition to a talent attraction event in collaboration with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University alumni clubs in Austin.

The Michigan House programming aligns with the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan’s Choose Michigan campaign, a $2.5 million awareness push targeting young STEAM professionals and prospective job candidates with animated videos designed to cut through the clutter and preconception of Michigan as a single-industry state centered on the automotive industry.

The campaign highlights the state’s abundant job opportunities, low cost of living and rise in creative culture, with a goal of retaining and attracting science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) talent for the state. With targeted media attraction campaigns launched in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin – along with retention efforts across state colleges and universities – millennials are being encouraged to “Choose Michigan” communities in which to live, work and play.

Choose Michigan launched last fall after a state-commissioned survey of college students and experienced STEAM pros in Midwest states by Russell Research showed 34 percent of students and 23 percent of professionals weren't willing to move to Michigan. The research also found that those outside Michigan are unaware of the comeback the state has made since last decade’s economic downturn. Many of them think the majority of jobs are in automotive manufacturing, unaware of careers in such fields as mobility, agriculture, aerospace, defense, healthcare and IT.

In addition, the research reflects that many young professionals considering a Michigan job have searched the web for the term “moving to Michigan,” which generates some unflattering videos. After sharing positive information about Michigan with the focus groups and showing them Choose Michigan videos, 74 percent of young people said they would consider moving to or staying in Michigan.

The full Michigan House schedule at SXSW is available at or by following @michiganhouse on Instagram and @michigan_house on Twitter. Employers looking to register by March 1 and join the Michigan House event at SXSW can send emails to Ted Velie at