The two are not mutually exclusive and I don't intend to reinforce a false dichotomy. In his defense, Joe Cortright makes that point. In fact, Cortright makes ten of them. Two that resonate with my blog:
4. Utterly missing from Jack and Tim's prescription for improving Oregon's economy is raising levels of educational attainment. There are two things you have to do: (1) better educate Oregon's children, at all levels, but especially by improving post-secondary education, and (2) retaining these smart kids and attracting others. There is no one who is more mobile in our society that a 24-year-old with a bachelors degree. If we do not have a place that offers a quality of life that is attractive to them, they will move elsewhere: That is precisely the problem that many large, declining metro areas in the East and Midwest face. It is also why, despite our niggardly investment in higher ed, that Portland has managed to improve its educational attainment. Want to be friendly to business and have higher incomes? Improve the education level of your population. ...... 9. Jack doesn't believe that I would ever ask what makes Oregon (or any place) attractive to large firms. In fact, that's a central part of my business: understanding what drives business growth and location decisions. I work with firms and economic development groups and site locators around the country. The number one answer to that question, according to all of them is: Does a community have a ready supply of talented – especially young – workers, and is it a place to which it would be relatively easy to attract more? If Jack doesn't understand that, he probably shouldn't be doing economic development work. A key part of Eugene-Springfield's problem is that while it educates lots of young adults, it does a relatively poor job of hanging on to the best and brightest after they graduate.
Ignoring the inflammatory rhetoric, the talent available matters. But Cortright has his workforce development equation backwards. Attraction, not retention, is the problem. An article about Google's makeover of Mountain View reviews the tradition:
Historically, company towns have grown up around organizations with large manufacturing operations that can support thousands of local workers. To attract top executives to often less-than-ideal locales, the companies donated large sums to cultural institutions.“The main reason Ford put money into the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is to make it plausible to recruit executives to Detroit,” Professor Davis said. “It was a human-resources move as much as it was philanthropic.”But the technology companies that grew amid the striking scenery and balmy weather of the Bay Area have not felt the same imperative. As they grew, they turned inward, putting their resources into employee perks like stock options and free lunches.
Funding the symphony orchestra wasn't about enticing executive talent to stay. As for retaining brains, Silicon Valley is far from a model community. If Cortright doesn't understand this, then he shouldn't anoint himself a "talent attraction expert". His remarks about retention suggest that he doesn't understand migration. His recommendations for Akron were ill conceived.
Want to improve the education level of your population? Attract more brains like Colorado has. Struggling to attract talent like Ann Arbor, Michigan? Improving the quality of life won't help. Neither will Joe Cortright.