Monday, April 25, 2011

Return Migration Buzz

Moving back home is a bigger deal than I or anyone else thought. Blogging was light last week because I was in Cleveland conducting focus groups with return migrants. One thing I learned is that host regions have no idea how good they have it. In Youngstown:

Ron Elkins was reading The Economist at work in Budapest, Hungary, when he ran across an article, “Youngstown, Ohio: A Youngstown town again.”

He said that was the final sign that he should return to the Valley, “where there’s so much going on now.”

Okay, that's one data point, an anecdote. It is also the tip of the iceberg. The stories of revitalization resonate and drive relocation decisions. Yet, Rust Belt cities have decided to do nothing to fuel the trend. Why?

We focus way too much on retention. That makes return migrants feel like second class citizens or taken for granted. All the chips are on keeping talent from leaving. One win for urban economic development is ignored. Success, as is often the case, is right under your cynical nose.

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