Monday, October 01, 2007

American Geography of Young Professionals

The latest twentysomethings installment from the Wall Street Journal starts off with a Pitt graduate who wanted to stay in the region, but ended up in Atlanta:

In the weeks before he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 Chris Valasek eagerly hunted for a local computer science job nearby. The avid Steelers fan had always wanted work near his hometown.

But in job interviews he was told over and over again that he needed more work experience. He wound up taking an offer from a technology company in Atlanta.

Nearly two years later, Mr. Valasek has grown attached to the city's lively neighborhoods and soul food, as well as his job in the city as a researcher at IBM Internet Security Systems. He plans on staying for a few more years -- though he admits he won't be rooting for the Falcons this season.

Before you get too despondent, consider the second subject of the article:

Allison Blakely, a 24-year-old graduate of Northwestern University and a Colorado native, moved to Atlanta in October 2005 from Chicago. She picked the city over a job offer in New York and is now making $45,000 a year as a weekend producer at CNN. Ms. Blakely says she wasn't ready for the hustle of Manhattan and her salary probably wouldn't have covered the exorbitant rents.

Do you see a common thread between the two migrants? First, Ms. Blakely didn't return to Colorado after graduation. She didn't stay in Chicago, either. Neither twentysomething stayed in the area where they went to university. Neither twentysomething worked near his or her hometown. Second, both twentysomethings were looking for more than a better salary in Atlanta. Other factors, such as quality of living, weighed on the choice of location.

The third case study further complicates why young professionals choose one place over another:

Samantha Williams, a 23-year-old Georgetown University graduate, who studied history, says she sees Atlanta as a launching pad for the bigger cities. She came here in September 2006 and quickly secured a job as a program specialist at Communities in Schools of Atlanta Inc., a nonprofit working to reduce school drop-out rates.

I don't think we gain much by looking at Pittsburgh and Atlanta through the lens of "have or have not." How does Pittsburgh fit into the geography of young professionals? Pittsburgh is a wonderful place to pursue your college degree, which makes it a "launching pad" of sorts. It is also a relatively inexpensive place to live, which Ms. Blakely notes is a strong draw. I've long been an advocate of playing to Pittsburgh's strengths, which contrary to some critics of the region, does provide a competitive advantage.

1 comment:

Brendan Crain said...

The fact that someone from Pittsburgh, which arguably has the greatest collection of neighborhoods of any North American city, describing the neighborhoods of Atlanta as "lively" is unnerving in a way that I have not experienced before.

Atlanta gives me hives.