Saturday, September 22, 2007

"I'm Not From Here" Diaspora

The Wall Street Journal is running a series of articles on the American geography of young professionals. The most recent story is about the rise of Minneapolis/St. Paul as a hot destination for college graduates seeking jobs AND a high quality of living. However, not all residents welcome the recent influx of outsiders:

Newcomers also must confront the social hurdles of being a "transplant" -- a term widely used in Minnesota to describe outsiders. Adrienne LaPointe, a 29-year-old originally from Michigan, says she was warned that many Minnesotans spend their entire lives in the state, gleaning their social circles from as early as middle and high school.

"There are two separate social societies here: people who grew up in Minnesota and everybody else," she says. Undeterred, Ms. LaPointe joined more than 500 people who are part of a social-networking group started in the 1990s for non-natives called I'm Not From Here.

This social network has expanded to include organizations in Richmond (VA), Milwaukee (WI), Wichita (KS), New York City (NY), and St. Cloud (MN). If there is a city that epitomizes the need for such a group, it is Pittsburgh. And yes, I'm suggesting that some non-native Pittsburgher now living there should start one. If the new CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council (Audrey Russo) is looking for a few useful projects, creating an "I'm Not From Here" chapter in the city would be a great initiative that would help to re-orient the Council towards the outside.

Of course, I'd rather see Pittsburgh-centric social network develop. But I think the focus of such an organization should be to help young professionals relocate. I know this is blasphemy, but the Minneapolis experience details the need for such a geographic mobility service and I can't think of a better way to get the word out about the opportunities in Pittsburgh.

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