Friday, October 29, 2010

Great Recession Recovery Migration

Brain drain is a huge story in this year's election season. I had over 40 articles to choose from this morning. I decided to blog about the only one that provides an honest account of the migration landscape:

Less than two years ago, Pell Duvall was feeling the brunt of the nation's economic slide, laid off from his job in Oregon and left underwater on his mortgage. He and his wife, both graduates of Truman State University in Missouri, decided it was time to return to their Midwestern roots.

Researching prospective cities online, he started reading how Omaha had been largely riding out the Great Recession.

“There were opportunities that required education, not just restaurant jobs,'' said Duvall, 29. “Just to see the variety of jobs and the big corporations in the area, I thought ‘Wow, that's something.' ''

Now he and his wife both have jobs and a happy new life in Omaha — in the process, becoming part of a trend. ...

... Duvall, the former Oregonian, is commuting by bike each day to his downtown job as an assistant production manager for Continuum Worldwide, the Omaha security consulting company. He's excited to see all the new biking lanes around town and additions to the metro trail system.

Duvall and Miller both have tapped into the growing community of young people in Omaha who are bullish on the city's future.

“I think it's great,'' Duvall said. “Omaha has a lot to offer.''

This expatriate return tale is instructive in terms of the expanded sense of homeland. Those who intimately know the Midwest are the ones cashing in on the boom in Omaha. Reports of good fortune in the plains won't resonate with people who don't know anything about flyover country. Instead, they head to Oregon where the economy is in a sorry state.

On the other hand, wayward Midwesterners are deleveraging. They are the few who figure out how to escape bust-towns such as Portland, reversing the talent migration celebrated in the work of Richard Florida. I don't expect this geographic arbitrage opportunity to remain a secret for much longer. Once the economy finds more sure footing, we'll start to see the landscape reshuffle in a more dramatic fashion.

Be careful what you wish for, Omaha.

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