Saturday, July 04, 2009

Talent Export Advantage

Why does Wales have a marketing problem? According to this article in Forbes, the lack of out-migration is to blame:

There was never the Welsh diaspora to build links with the U.S. in the way that Scottish and Irish migration did. As Wales First Minister Rhodri Morgan, who is now accompanying a trade mission to the U.S., points out, when potato famine and the Highland Clearances were driving rural Irish and Scottish emigration, respectively, across the Atlantic, Wales was discovering the coal that would be the basis of its prosperity for more than a century. Welsh migration was to no father afield than Welsh mining and steel towns. (Read our Q&A with Morgan here.)

Scotland and Ireland remain "fierce competitors" in the fight to attract inward investment to the north Atlantic periphery of Europe, says Geraint Jones, a former banker who now runs the American arm of Wales' inward investment agency, International Business Wales. So Wales must "make some noise," he says.

You might say that the brain drain from Wales hasn't been strong enough to produce a well-known global brand. Wales looks at emigration from Ireland and Scotland with envy. How ironic.

New Zealand is beginning to appreciate the value of international migration, particularly diaspora networks:

The research by economists David Law, Murat Genc and John Bryant, funded by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, says that one promising way of fostering international trade is to harness the business knowledge, language skills and social and commercial networks of migrants.

New Zealand is well placed to do this as nearly one in four residents was born overseas and there is a large Kiwi diaspora.

The conclusion is that "migration stimulates trade". Limiting the geographic mobility of labor is, ultimately, self-defeating. Unfortunately, Rust Belt states such as Michigan just don't get it:

The key issue is devising a way to keep college graduates in Michigan, as we currently lose more fresh graduates than any other state. One approach worth attempting is a program in Maine where the state issues tax credits for student loan payments to recent graduates of local universities who remain in-state after graduation. If we're every going to find a way to turn things around in Michigan, keeping our brightest young people in-state is a great place to start.

That's a horrible place to start and the key issue is devising a way to attract college graduates to Michigan. If you think issuing tax credits is a great idea, then offer them to talent schooled in other states. How about poaching skilled labor from Georgia?

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