Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Out-Migration Anxiety

How might a region respond to an initiative that purports to promote brain circulation? Turns out that Atlantic Canada is as skeptical about such a scheme as I suspect Pittsburghers are:

A number of folks have commented on my last post about the East Coast Connected initiative. After a 90 second perusal of the website (and reading the Herald article), I suggested this might be a good way to link into the diaspora. Most of the comments (posts, emails and a couple of telephone calls) provide good points.

Some have said that this initiative is more about sucking talent out of Atlantic Canada rather than 'circulation'. Some say it sounds like an initiative to make Atl. Canadians more at home in the big city. This may be true. Who knows.

David Campbell, author of the above post at the It's The Economy, Stupid blog, goes on to provide the cooler head perspective:

But the bottom line, for me, is this. Something like 550,000 people have moved out of New Brunswick since 1976 (some have moved in but this is the out-migration total). I suggest (and you mostly would agree I submit) that the single most popular reason to migrate out of New Brunswick (and ATLCAN) is lack of economic opportunity.

So, in general, keeping these folks in some form of 'loop' for the 'if' and 'when' they would be candidates to come back here is a good idea. There are an increasing number of wage competitive jobs (adjusted for cost of living) available down here in financial services, IT, health care, etc. And my experience is that a lot of ATLCANers want to move back here when it comes time to raise their family.

So, I think this type of networking process is highly valid (without knowing the specifics) and its up to NB companies and NB governments to ensure that it in fact is a two-way street. This should not be about brow beating ex-Maritimers to move back out of some sense of guilt or about greasing the skids for the folks moving to Toronto (remember, Toronto has a net out-migration of Canadians over the past 10 years - its populationg growth is being driven by immigrants - not migrants from other areas of Canada).

Mr. Campbell appreciates the crux of the problem that plagues Atlantic Canada, Pittsburgh, and other regions struggling to make the economic transition. Out-migration, namely of young adults, is a fact of life. But when the human capital is ready to return, the means to do so are unclear. The solution is simple: Cultivate a relationship with the young workers leaving the region.

What can we do for out-migrants? We can help them relocate and network. This helps foster regional loyalty beyond the typical cultural affiliation that feeds the longing for home. The idea is to serve the people of the region instead of the region itself. Without a formal diaspora network, programs such as the Pittsburgh Promise are a waste of money.

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