Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Parochial Problem

Local resistance to the pressures of globalization often confounds policymakers concerned with economic development. What's popular is not always in the best interest of the community. Sometimes, parochial desires take a disastrous turn:

"When they walk across that stage, they automatically think, 'I'm not going to get a job in Muncie. I'm going to have to go out of town to a big city,'" [Marwin Strong of Muncie] says. "But there's a saying that local people solve local problems, so I'm interested in keeping people here."

Although employment, or lack thereof, may lead many people to leave Muncie, the concern for black leaders relates to who will fill leadership positions in the future. Those who fear this "black brain drain," the term for the black professional flight out of Muncie, say Muncie will soon be left without a crop of local leaders who know and understand community concerns.

I have a saying, which Richard Longworth might echo: Local people don't know how to solve the global problems shrinking their cities. Muncie (and other struggling places like it) desperately needs a few minds able to understand the global/local linkages and the forces shaping the economic landscape. Keeping talent in Muncie won't help.

That non-locals can't possibly understand the issues facing the community is, by and large, a myth. Muncie would do well to attract talent from a world city, instead of impeding the progress of young adults. Also, just because someone leaves town upon graduation doesn't mean that person is gone forever and a local loss. Muncie graduates moving to Chicago or Indianapolis is not a crisis. It is cause for celebration.

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