Communities should worry less about “brain drain” and worry more about building the capacity for talent development. Communities should worry less about company incentives for job creation and more about investments in education and workforce development. Differentiate your community by its commitment to talent development. Don’t worry if talented people move on to explore opportunities in other communities. Encourage it. Stay focused on making your community the best it can be at helping it’s citizens be the best they can be. Talent development is the best economic development.
I figure the debate boils down to place-centric economic development (e.g. CEOs for Cities) versus talent-centric economic development. The former is better established and more palatable to the risk averse. However, a city that develops talent doesn't need to worry about being cool or hip.
The Great Recession exposed the folly of place-centric economic development. Portland might be the poster child for this failed approach. Yet I expect many more cities to follow this model. From Michigan Future:
Governor-elect Snyder was right on when he wrote in his ten point plan that “many of Michigan’s youth are looking for an appealing metropolitan community – and many are moving out of state to find it”. As is the plan’s list of place attributes that are needed to compete for mobile young talent: safe/walkable urban neighborhoods with vibrant third places, transit, parks/outdoor recreation and the arts.The Millennials, more than any previous generation, are concentrating in big metropolitan areas anchored by vibrant central cities. For Michigan to prosper it’s central cities – particularly Detroit – must be places where young mobile talent wants to live and work.Through fundamental policy change the Snyder Administration can help create that quality of place. It largely requires changing the direction of three state agencies.
Ugh. So much for Michigan's comeback. Detroit and other cities must be places where talent can develop. That's why so many people move to New York City and cram into a shit hole apartment with 10 other slackers in a lousy part of town so they can work for peanuts. It isn't for the walkable neighborhoods. If you want to be the best, you go to New York City. Now tell me why anyone should move to Detroit. For quality of place? No one would believe it even if it were true.