Not so long ago, Pittsburgh was a place young people were fleeing, a city with a once proud manufacturing history saddled with an aging population. Does this sound like Connecticut? We are learning -- again -- this week that we are one of the oldest states in the nation.We are a place where young people leave, where newly retired wealthy residents can't wait to get out, where we are left with an older population that has few options -- except to remain.Gov. Rell and the legislature don't get what a serious crisis this is. They don't understand that we must be investing in the industries of the future -- medical technology, biomedical research and public education -- if we want to a place where young people stay and where business wants to expand.
Can you picture me rubbing my hands together as I read this? The author promises more:
My column tomorrow looks at what awaits us if we don't do something about the disasterous loss of young people.
Tomorrow can't come fast enough. Putting my feet back on the ground of today, I don't think I've ever seen or heard Pittsburgh held up as a model for plugging the brain drain. However, I do think that Pittsburgh is a model of how brain drain can be an indicator of a region heading in the right direction. (Warning! Gratuitous "hell with the lid off" reference if you click on the link.)
I argue that the exodus of young adults in the 1980s is the Pittsburgh success story. Go ahead and invest in human capital like Pittsburgh did, Connecticut. Just understand that the brain drain will get worse before it gets better. Furthermore, talent that leaves is not lost to the region forever:
Those demographics have Pittsburgh struggling to fill positions in fast-expanding industries, said Bill Flanagan, head of the Allegheny Conference, an economic development group."We still don't have enough restaurants or bars to attract young people," he said. "We've got 30,500 open jobs and we can't fill them."Flanagan hopes the "boomerang effect" -- where the children of families who left Pittsburgh decades ago come back -- will bolster the workforce.
Flanagan needn't turn to the Burgh Diaspora to fill those positions. Connecticut has Pittsburgh covered. Given the G-20 coverage there, every young adult now knows where to go when she or he graduates from one of the many colleges and universities in the state. That's how Pittsburgh will "plug" the brain drain.