Monday, November 15, 2010

Brain Gain Cleveland

There isn't an exodus from Rust Belt cities. That's a myth. Aaron Renn (The Urbanophile) takes a hard look at the outmigration rates across the nation and comes to a startling conclusion:

Not what you expected, is it? That’s right, Pittsburgh is dead last among all 366 US metro areas I’m tracking in terms of its out-migration rate. People aren’t leaving, just like they aren’t leaving a lot of other places famous for large absolute net domestic out-migration. Not even Cleveland (#13 from the bottom) or Detroit (#17). (In fairness, net migration did turn positive for Pittsburgh this year).

The flight of the Creative Class? Hardly. The numbers tell us that all the money spent on retention amounts to a boondoggle. What strikes me as stupid (i.e. regional suicide) is that shrinking cities are keen to advertise their brain drain problem. You don't attract business by caterwauling about all the talent leaving your area.

"There's just this whole idea that somehow everyone is leaving and its entirely wrong," says Thomas Waltermire with Team NEO.

The stigma of "Brain Drain" is all perspective. Waltermire has crunched the numbers and says the statistics show, Cleveland is gaining and gaining where it matters.

That is quite a turnaround from the absurd Cleveland Plus campaign to keep graduates from leaving. Perhaps you need a refresher:

His 10-year-old company [Collegia] has been connecting colleges and communities to improve the economic well-being and vibrancy of both in places like Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

But PlusCollege is ''the most advanced site we've done,'' he said. For instance, the calendar uses an algorithm that takes a database of 100 activities and spotlights the ones most likely to appeal to the targeted age group.

Hoffman said the desire to keep young professionals at home is not unique to Northeast Ohio. ''Every region feels they could do better,'' he said.

But aggressive region wide efforts to do something about it is a new trend, and Northeast Ohio is ''in the front end of the wave coming across the country,'' he said.

And because college students are ''very influenced by what they read, by what they think is a cool city,'' Hoffman said, then a Web site that helps them find a comfy coffee shop, an electric night life or valuable internships will help them see the grass is green on this side.

The George GundFoundation provided $40,000 for the project.

That's $40,000 paid to blast to the world that Cleveland has a brain drain problem that doesn't exist. Brilliant strategy. That's why Renn's analysis is so surprising. Rust Belt cities expend a lot of time, energy and resources to negatively brand their regions. Now Team NEO is trying to undo this damage. In the past, Team NEO has been one of the culprits of keeping Cleveland down. I'll be interested to see if the organization has really changed its tune.

No comments: