Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Building Clusters Via Talent Exports

Talent is still chasing jobs. Eventually, the talent pool itself will attract employers. Portland is banking on that happening. I doubt the scheme will work. Firms can choose from a number of well-educated places. Well-educated people are geographically mobile. There are a slew of lovely locales they can call home. There's more to the relocation picture than Portland will allow.

Like places, talent pools should aim to be more distinctive. In Albany, you'll find nanotech expertise. That's great news for growing nanotech companies. These jobs aren't going to follow college-educated twentysomethings to Portland. But how can a region stock esoteric talent without the right opportunities already in place? Graduates will go where the opportunity is.

Albany is a story of talent production attracting employers. Jobs chase superstar professors and top-notch research programs. Economic development professionals are wise to this game. That's why you see multiple places competing for the same cluster. There's a smarter way to skin this cat. Exporting talent:

As part of a 2009 agreement, UGA and the University of Liverpool have conducted collaborative research on African diasporas, migration, genomics, marine science and many other subjects. They also operate student and faculty exchanges, according to Jane Gatewood, UGA's director of international partnerships.

This week, the Athens Downtown Development Authority approved $10,000 in funding for an Athens franchise of Liverpool Sound City, a three-day festival started in the U.K. that melds music, media, technology and entrepreneurship.

"It's access to markets. It's access to capital. It's access to expertise," said Kristen Hirst, who represents Liverpool Vision, the city's economic development arm, in Atlanta.

Liverpool sends its best and brightest to the University of Georgia. At some point, graduates return home and start businesses. Talent migration is reciprocal, not a zero-sum game. The journey links two places economically. This is the geography of the emerging Talent Economy.

Liverpool doesn't have to be all things to all local aspiring college graduates. It can build up a unique talent pool abroad, the kind of expertise that will attract a certain kind of company. Atlanta and Liverpool are talent trading partners. Both economies grow because of this exchange. It's not density. It's not urban amenities or cool. It's migration. People develop, not places.


Rebecca Ryan said...


Interesting post.

Our research among young professionals shows something different. When asked, "In choosing a place to live and work, which is more important, the city amenities or the job options," those with HIGH SKILLS favor city amenities, and those with LOWER SKILLS favor job options.

How does this square with your observations?

Jim Russell said...

How does this square with your observations?

The high skills demographic might have a choice of location. Certain skills are in high demand everywhere. Thus, urban amenities would be one way to evaluate relocation options. The talent market is national, not local.