“Long before there was any formal economic development effort in the state or in the county, this group made a major difference in diversifying both the local and regional economies,” said Ron Arnold, executive director of the Daviess County Economic Development Corporation. “John’s leadership and commitment helped bring several companies to the area and helped others expand, and all of it done on a volunteer basis.”Snyder said that the economic development group was formed in part because high school seniors were graduating from local schools and then leaving the area due to a lack of jobs. “The ‘brain drain’ has been a challenge to Indiana communities for many decades in one form or another,” Snyder explained. “The first economic development group was able to attract some new business and change a few things.”
Naively, I assumed attracting new business and job creation was the reason any community would hire economic development professionals. If a bump in employment opportunities fails reduce the rate of graduates leaving the region, are the efforts a failure? Ironically, plugging the brain drain is economic undevelopment. Make sure everyone drops out of high school and reap the political rewards of stifling geographic mobility.
Initiatives designed to retain talent are anti-growth. Encouraging home ownership exacerbates poverty. Even student loan debt works against the benefits of increasing educational attainment.
Migration is a form of economic development. Attracting more immigrants will catalyze regional growth. Yet we won't consider a novel idea such as a mobility bank:
Flint is just one example of the many American communities that have unemployment much higher than the national average. Many obstacles prevent an unemployed worker from moving from one city to another in search of a job. The decision of whether to move for work is not unlike the decision of whether to go to college. An unemployed or underemployed person who is thinking about moving for economic reasons faces a series of front-loaded costs such as moving expenses and leaving familiar surroundings, costs incurred in exchange for what are hoped to be longer-term benefits—ideally, a steady job or a higher-paying job. But, as with paying for college, there is a private-market failure that limits access to credit to fund human capital investments—namely, that people cannot use their future earnings as collateral to borrow money to finance their moves. Many people also may be uncertain about what job opportunities are actually available to them in distant locations, and may have limited information about amenities and quality-of-life issues in areas with stronger job growth.
Encouraging outmigration is the same as encouraging going to college. Discouraging outmigration is the same as discouraging going to college. The latter aim is obviously ridiculous. Policies designed to stop brain drain are just as absurd. Workforce development without a geographic mobility strategy is half-baked and dead set against the prosperity of the people the board purports to serve. It privileges industry over worker. Economic development professionals need to get with the times.