Friday, January 27, 2012

Brain Dead Indiana

It’s almost as if they’re gonna get smarter by locating to an urban area. - David Audretsch, Indiana University professor of economic development

Indiana is dying. Desperate Rust Belt times require desperate Sun Belt measures. The state wants to give its residents the right to work. What's the rush? All the brains are leaving:

Q: What are some reasons why Indiana might have difficulty holding on to well-educated workers?

A: The real question is: Are we drawing people in? Do we have opportunities for highly skilled workers whether they graduated in Indiana or not? When you look at the data, the answer is some. More than we did in the past, but we are definitely net exporters of educational attainment. When you look at the so called great knowledge clusters in the country — Silicon Valley, research triangle in North Carolina; Austin, Texas. They’ve got a big inflow of people coming in, because of good match-ups between skills and industry.

Probably not the answer the journalist was expecting. Did Dr. Audretsch duck the question? The game of economic development is one of talent attraction, not retention. Indiana does not have a brain drain problem. Brain drain isn't a problem anywhere in the entire United States. But we throw billions of dollars every year at it, a colossal waste.

After residents graduate from college, Indiana does a lousy job of developing people. Again, Audretsch with some key insight:

We know that in larger cities, there’s going to be a lot more demand for highly educated workers. Indiana doesn’t have these kinds of mega-global cities like Chicago or New York or Dallas. The job opportunities in places like these are just greater for all levels of education. That’s something Indiana battles.

Emphasis added. Global cities do the best job of developing people. That's why so many people move to one. The upside for Indiana is that, at least domestically, even more talent leaves US global cities every year. Chicago poaches the best of Indiana's college graduates. Indiana poaches Chicago's best mid-career professionals and aspiring entrepreneurs. The focus on college graduate migration is a major gaffe.

2 comments:

Brian said...

How do the best cities develop talent once it gets there?

Jim Russell said...

Generally, talent develops talent. The competition is tougher. There are a greater variety of ideas and perspectives. You are surrounded by migrants.

What the "city" can do is allow for more migrants to mingle without all the drawbacks of larger populations and density (e.g. higher crime rates).