Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Michigan Cool Cities Success

Given the documented exodus of Michigan college graduates, Governor Jennifer Granholm's Cool Cities initiative is facing increasing criticism:

The [brain drain] problem is not new. The governor has tried to promote Michigan as an attractive place for recent college graduates and young professions through her “Cool Cities” initiative, which kicked off in 2003. Despite millions in investment, the initiative has been widely seen as not achieving its goals.

As one commenter on another blog unintentionally insinuates, the recent exodus might indicate a change for the better. Pittsburgh suffered through a similar gutting of its young adult population. I've come around to appreciate that brain drain is a symptom of successful investment in local human capital. I intend to prepare my children to compete in a global workforce and geographic mobility is one of the hallmarks of in-demand talent.

Coercing people to stay is foolish, but there is nothing wrong with improving the cities for the young professionals who prefer Michigan to anyplace else. The goal of Cool Cities from the start should have been attracting brains. A good example of just such an approach is IndyHub's new initiative, will feature information and news relevant to Indianapolis’ arts and culture, night life, dining, outdoor/sporting scene and much more, along with basic facts and figures about the state of Indiana. The site will contain videos, photos and an interactive map of Indianapolis, highlighting local hot spots and must-sees. will serve as a recruiting tool for businesses and HR professionals when courting out-of-state candidates.

Kudos to Indianapolis for skipping the usual rhetoric about retaining locals. I also appreciate Saskatchewan's aggressive courting of talent outside of the province. I hope Michigan doesn't make the same mistake that Pittsburgh did in obsessing the natives who left. But for all the fretting about brain drain, Pittsburgh would recover and be the better thanks to out-migration.

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