Saturday, May 31, 2008

Labor Shortage Diaspora

The looming talent wars seem ridiculous to job starved states such as Michigan. The future is now in Iowa and shrinking cities best heed the warning:

Iowa’s surplus arises from colliding trends: the exodus of young college graduates, a state economy that adds 2,000 jobs a month, low immigration and birth rates, and an image problem that makes it difficult to recruit workers from out of state. Iowans’ median age is nearly two years above the national figure, and the state is near the top in the rates of women in the workforce and workers with multiple jobs — further shrinking the pool of people who might be drawn into the market.

“It’s really a perfect storm,” said Elisabeth Buck, director of Iowa Workforce Development. Over the next decade, more than 70,000 workers a year will become eligible for retirement, with school enrollment — potential replacement workers — dropping by 20,000 since 1998, while the nationwide housing crisis makes it harder for companies to recruit from out of state, because potential employees cannot sell their homes.

I think the key variable of influence is the ability to attract workers from out of state. There are limits to economic pull factors. Establishing a pathway for chain migration is safe bet, but that's easier said than done. I know how it could be done. I'm sure other policymakers could figure it out. The drag comes from the obsession with the graduates leaving the state.

The answer is to promote out-migration.


Just when I thought it was safe to read about Michigan human capital problems, up pops this article:

A survey of more than 5,000 recent graduates of Michigan's public universities between October 2007 and March 2008 found that nearly half had left the state, said Louis Glazer, president of Michigan Future Inc., a policy research firm. "That's a horrific number," he said.

Horrific relative to what? 45%? 40%? Mr. Glazer should check out the brain drain crisis in South Carolina, Georgia, or Colorado. The real terror is justifying tax dollars for public universities when so many graduates leave the state.

I was going to post that Michigan should hire the unemployed Border Guard Bob, but I recently found out that he is currently negotiating a new contract with the City of Pittsburgh.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

EB-5 Milwaukee

The EB-5 visa program is catching on:

Scott Harrison wants Milwaukee to look back in 10 or 15 years and admire the economic contributions of its Chinese community with the same appreciation it reserves for the breweries of a previous generation.

Harrison belongs to a small clutch of investors who on Wednesday launched a private-equity fund that seeks Chinese investment in southeastern Wisconsin. The program uses a federal program that grants U.S. residency rights to qualified foreigners who create at least 10 jobs by investing within the metro area.

Milwaukee entrepreneur Robert Kraft is leading the venture, called FirstPathway Citizenship Fund, which cleared its final legal and bureaucratic hurdles this week.

Kraft and Harrison see the fund as a way to build the Chinese community in Milwaukee, making the city more international and linking it more closely to the movement of people and capital around the world.

If Milwaukee fails to connect with the Asian economy, "the region will be left behind," Kraft said.

The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and deals with a category of visa called the EB-5. While many classes of U.S. visas are oversubscribed - leaving U.S. employers and universities chafing at the inability to recruit workers from abroad - Washington seldom reaches its cap of EB-5 visas.

Since Cleveland is looking to fund a similar initiative, FirstPathway Citizenship Fund might be a great model to copy. If they haven't already, other EB-5 visa regions (e.g. Pittsburgh) could do the same. I'm curious as to why the EB-5 visa is so underutilized. Lack of publicity? Difficult to manage? Inexperience?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Michigration Returns?

I admit that upon viewing the title of this column, "Engage students to stop Michigan's brain drain," I was prepared to get on my soapbox. I've already taken Michigan to task for mistakenly trying to fix the out-migration problem known as "Michigration." To his credit, Gary Russi (president of Oakland University and Detroit Renaissance board member) doesn't follow the traditional line of hype:

The notion of community engagement is re-energizing our way of educating students, and schools must take an active role in providing students with the means to be involved with their region. Oakland University's economic impact alone brings in $500 million annually, and of our 78,000 alumni, 80 percent are living and working in Michigan.

The future of education lies in demonstrating to the public how we can take learning and discovery off campus and apply it to help the community grow and solve problems. When we do this, the people and the Legislature will see tangible benefits from their financial support of our education beyond the valuable education.

With 80% of Oakland graduates remaining in Michigan, I don't think Mr. Russi is using the term "brain drain" in the way most people understand it. In fact, I suspect he is merely paying lip service to the misplaced anxiety about out-migration. But I'll have to listen to the full interview in order to be sure.

Regardless, I appreciate Mr. Russi's aim to extend the university into the surrounding community. Integrating knowledge centers with their host cities is vital to an entrepreneurial economy and job creation. Furthermore, regions should make the most of the human capital in residence before the students graduate. And connecting students to Greater Detroit will pay significant dividends down the road.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Immigration Reform Race

A cursory glance at the news about the war for talent might lead one to conclude that the United States is rapidly falling behind. Recent blog posts here detail the concern about brain drain in Canada and the United Kingdom. However, when we consider policies to address the problem, the grass still looks greener across the pond. Or, should I say bluer?

The European Blue Card is hardly a slam dunk. The European Union lags well behind the United States in securing global talent and lack of highly skilled labor is a full blown crisis in some countries. Consider the current lack (UK being the obvious exception) of Indian immigration to the EU:

According to the World Bank's Migration and Remittances Factbook 2008, there is only one European country, Britain, among the top 10 destinations for Indian emigrants.

Recently, the European Union had introduced the idea of a "blue card" to compete directly with the American "green card" to attract the right kind of highly-skilled educated emigrant. "But most of the countries have to still agree to implement it. Therefore, negotiations with individual countries to facilitate manpower supply is a better idea," said the [Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs] official.

For India, the chief aim to go into talks with European nations is not just to streamline the rules but also to target specific shortages in different countries. "We want to put in a system of placing skilled workers depending on the trends for labour supply gap that are emerging in those countries," he said.

It started when Polish Labour Minister Anna Kalata came to Delhi in February 2007. She agreed to sign an agreement to import more Indian manpower, especially for the construction projects for Euro 2012 as well as for agricultural farms.

"But after that the Polish government collapsed and there were elections, so there was not much work on that. Now, we are again reviving those talks," he said.

Europe is not out-hustling the United States for talent, but that's not a reason to get complacent. I take the India-EU relationship as an example of how difficult meaningful reform can be. Government is too slow to address a talent shortage and the legislative concessions of negotiation often prove too dear. That's why the US continues to limp along with the H-1B and EB-5 visa programs.

The best bet, at least in the short term, is to fully exploit existing opportunities. Cleveland's nascent attempt to leverage the EB-5 visa is a clever ploy for human capital gains. Another one is to promote the secondary migration of immigrants who have already jumped through all the hoops to get here. A third approach is to maximize the spillovers of foreign-born students attending local universities.

Or, we can keep obsessing the natives who leave the region upon graduation.

Monday, May 26, 2008

UK Exodus

Shrinking cities are as common as sprawl. That Cool Cities can stem the tide of out-migration is a myth of the Richard Florida enterprise. Policies designed to stop brain drain are a tired political gambit. However, who is leaving is what continues to make news:

Increasing numbers of British citizens are opting to make a new life in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Spain & USA, creating gaps in the UK workforce & community for skilled migrants to move in.

According to statistics released by Whitehall, over 200,000 Britons emigrated from the UK in 2006. In response, over 160,000 foreign nationals were granted UK passports in 2007. This is an increase of seven percent on the previous year's immigration figures.

Though the UK has been under some economic pressure from the credit crunch, British industries are still calling out for more skilled workers to fill skill shortages.

What's wrong with London? The global alpha city is fine, thank you very much. Cities need immigrants and London is good at attracting them. However, the UK demands even more of the foreign-born in order to sustain economic growth. Retaining more native talent isn't the answer.

If London can't keep the British from leaving the country, then what hope do Rust Belt cities have? Creative Paris doesn't compare to other world cities as far as French-born entrepreneurs are concerned. Shrinking cities such as Buffalo must keep brain drain in proper perspective. London and Paris are good models of how immigration benefits cities, but the better takeaway value may be how the demographic story of the United Kingdom exposes supposed city saviors as charlatans.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ontario Diaspora

While Richard Florida continues to celebrate all things Toronto, Ontario expatriates are much more pessimistic:

Jeffrey Meyers, a Ph.D. law student from Vancouver, asked McGuinty what Ontario's post-secondary system is doing to halt the brain drain to other countries.

The premier said it will not be possible to offer every talented postgraduate student their ultimate job in Ontario, so the aim is to have as many people working at the top of their profession as possible.

He added he believes there is value in young talent working abroad.

"I want all Canadians to feel very much lik an global citizens and that you can, and possibly should, find some international experience so that you can bring that experience to bear at home," he said.

Mon Dieu, the Creative Class is fleeing Canada! The hysteria over brain drain is misplaced and promises to retain talent are empty. I'm delighted that Premier Dalton McGuinty recognizes the value of out-migration and geographic mobility. I only wish that more politicians would have the courage to embrace the diaspora experience.

No matter how cool or tolerant Toronto is, talent will leave. In that regard, Pittsburgh is no different. But what Toronto has that Pittsburgh doesn't is ample immigration. Ontario, like the United Kingdom, needs only to mind the rules of attraction.

Chattanoogaburgh Redux

Part II (I blogged about Part I) of the series about Chattanooga's transformation from Rust to Silicon is finally up:

In my previous article, I noted that one of the roadblocks on Chattanooga’s path to a high-tech future was “brain drain,” the tendency of graduates to leave home looking for better careers in other parts of the country. It turns out that the SimCenter is already playing a part in easing—and maybe even reversing—this problem.

The SimCenter is one of only two places in the country that offers a Ph.D. in computational engineering. This field, which uses computers to model and solve real world engineering problems, is one of the hottest fields in science at the moment. As a result, the SimCenter is drawing students to Chattanooga from all over the world.

Of course, you might think that a newly minted computational engineer would have to leave town to find work. Again, that’s not the case. The mere existence of the SimCenter has already brought several high-tech companies to town, and they are already competing to hire SimCenter graduates.

I don't know how big the SimCenter economic cluster could be, but I appreciate the uniqueness of the program. When I carry on about regional comparative advantage, I'm thinking about the SimCenter and the like.

I'm curious about similarly unique comparative advantages of each and every Rust Belt city. What can you do in Buffalo and only Buffalo?

Investment in Ohio

Another fiscal year, another economic stimulus package targeting brain drain:

One of the most exciting aspects of the stimulus package is a $250 million investment in Ohio college students and graduates to help create world-class internship and co-op programs. The main goal is to slow the exodus of talent from our colleges and universities to out-of-state employers. This program also requires at least a one-to-one match meaning this $250 million will incentivize at least $500 million in total economic activity targeted to slow the "brain drain" that has led to many of our best and brightest leaving the state.

I can only include that the cost of buying happy voters in Ohio is $250 million. Graduation is a good time to announce a pork barrel project purporting to address out-migration. I hear Cleveland is looking for some money to market their EB-5 entrepreneurial initiative. $250,000 would be a great start.

Whenever I read about a funded program to reverse brain drain, I know that government has run out of ideas to improve the economy. Meanwhile, more innovative ideas wither on the vine. If Ohio is going to spend $250 million on the migration problem, then the state should try something new. The first step is recognizing the crux of the issue, which is a profound lack of in-migration.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Erie Economic Development

Jim Berlin, part of the GlobalErie blog team, once posted about a project called "Highway H2O:"

Highway H20 is a wonderful “back to the future” effort to alleviate the growing congestion/backlog in our ocean port cities, on our highways, bridges and rails, and to utilize a largely underutilized resource (the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway) to move containers in a more environmentally-friendly manner.

This would not only take trucks off of our highways, spew less gas into the environment and save fuel, but it would create jobs and viability by making the inland port cities such as Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, Duluth more active once again.

Heeding John Austin's suggestion, Toledo is exploring its own transportation assets. Is Toledo's gain Erie's loss? Toledo's competition is, according to the article, Columbus and North Baltimore (south of Toledo on I-75). I would guess that the development of the port city (i.e. Toledo) would benefit other port cities such as Erie. While the success of inland transportation hubs might marginalize the advantage of sitting on one of the Great Lakes. Regardless, what is going on in Toledo should concern businesses based in Erie.

Highway H2O is just part of Erie's economic development portfolio. As the Great Lakes go green, America's North Coast should see a boost in tourism:

When Kevin Molloy gazes out the windows of the $110 million glass-encased Erie convention center he doesn't see the vacant, decaying buildings along the lake's shores and downtown.

Instead, the center's general manager envisions business travelers dressed down and crowding the city's seven miles of pristine beaches, sailboat-packed marinas and a glittering casino that are still usually patronized by a more local set. He imagines those businessmen and women returning with their families, bringing their children to frolic in an indoor water park and to shop at local stores.

His dreams are shared by Erie's mayor, a new tourism bureau, hotel owners and investors, all of whom are determined to turn this once prosperous industrial northwestern Pennsylvania city into a tourist destination that will rival Niagara Falls just two hours away.

Instead of getting a larger share of the regional tourist pie, Erie should try to help increase tourism to all of the lower Great Lakes. What concerns me is the zero-sum game attitude: Rust Belt city versus Rust Belt city. The above Toledo story is a good example of the problem. John Austin, promoter of Great Lakes collaboration, recognizes an opportunity for Toledo. But the competition for the development project is other cities within the same mega-region (actually, within the same state). Such an initiative is, ultimately, counterproductive. If Erie is competing with Toledo or Cleveland or Buffalo, then we all lose.

Corridors of Opportunity

A bunch of items in the blog hopper after spending the past week exploring immigration issues. The Columburgh Corridor is making news again and threatens to overtake Cleveburgh in terms of realized economic development:

There was praise for Edward Florak, outgoing interim director of Progress Alliance, and welcoming comments for new executive director Ed Looman during Tuesday’s meeting of the Community Improvement Corp. board of trustees.

Looman, a native of Steubenville, had a long career in the newspaper industry as well as a stint in the Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County, which performs a similar economic development function in Northeastern Ohio as Progress Alliance.

Looman told the board he’s set to work on developing a Jefferson County resource guide to have it ready for the June 12 Corridors of Opportunity event being held at St. Florian Hall by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The event will see potentially hundreds of real estate professionals, developers and site selection persons from Western Pennsylvania to hear presentations on what’s available for development and growth in Jefferson County.

Actually, Pittsburgh's western frontier is framed as the last direction for the region to explore. Cranberry, Monroeville, Southpointe, and now Steubenville? Connecting to innovation in Columbus strikes me as a good idea, with Cleveland completing the economic corridor triangle.

Within this triangle are strong links to LA entertainment, NYC creativity, and DC talent. There are ample water and energy resources available, not to mention the excess of human capital (much more than the regional economy can currently absorb). Yet interstate collaboration is easier said than done. I figure that the Postindustrial Heartland will continue to forge ahead with projects such as the I-Q Corridor, which are much more manageable than a Great Lakes Union.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Urban Economic Corridors

Richard Longworth figures prominently in this opinion piece about promoting the I-Q Corridor:

Only 400 or so miles separate Chicago from the Twin Cities of Minnesota, with Wisconsin sandwiched in between along the I-90 and I-94 highways. Along that path can be found some of the world's leading research universities, federal laboratories, major tech companies, an educated workforce and ample financial capital. As branded by the Wisconsin Technology Council, the “I” stands for interstate, innovation, intellectual property and investment, and the “Q” for quality of life, education, workforce and more. It's a tool that could help people outside the Midwest, in the United States or abroad, recognize the wealth of resources in the Upper Midwest. There are similar corridor efforts in other parts of the Midwest.

The author goes on to list a few existing instances of interstate cooperation between Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. But the takeaway is that not nearly enough is being done and that the I-Q Corridor is a large reserve of untapped resources. What this tells me is that top-down connectivity won't work. Novel regional linkages must be more organic, bottom-up.

I contend this is where Richard Longworth and John Austin get it wrong. Unleashing innovation is not a function of a mega-regional think tank or an intergovernmental organization. The traditional political geography is now so dysfunctional as to create unique spaces of opportunity for entrepreneurs of all kinds to thrive. The fiction of Cleveburgh is a citizen initiative and the groundwork for this corridor is already in place.

Regional Immigration Policy

Buffalo Ideas responds to the Cleveland EB-5 visa initiative:

[Vivek] Wadhwa is encouraging Cleveland to put together a marketing pitch to immigrants located in tech heavy areas like the Silicon Valley and Boston to encourage them to take advantage of low cost of living, without 2 hour commutes, access to universities and quality labor, incubator space and venture capital combined with the benefit of obtaining a green card.

The effort needs a champion, whose sole job is to drive recruitment and line up the necessary resources. Imagine the impact of subsidizing an effort to attract the energy and talents of individual entrepreneurs instead of spending millions as we do now on pursuing an individual company.

I like the idea of pursuing this approach in Buffalo, what do you think?

I'll tell you what I think. Western New York should get together with Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, and Northern West Virginia in crafting a comprehensive human capital attraction strategy that includes high skilled immigrants. Congress is considering a fast track Green Card program and the US Representatives (e.g. Tim Ryan) from the above areas should be involved in this legislation.

The benefits of high skilled immigrants to a regional economy are well documented. But you don't have to take my word for it. The American Immigration Law Foundation, among other policy analysts, has studied the issue. Your US Representative can take action today to help your shrinking city. I would think that legislation improving mega-regional job creation would interest every Rust Belt citizen.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

EB-5 Cleveburgh

Pushing immigration reform through Congress is a daunting prospect. Concerning Rust Belt economic development, exploiting existing programs can still yield positive results. Surprisingly, Cleveland is emerging as a leading example of innovative approaches to attracting human capital:

[Vivek] Wadhwa's research indicates that upwards of 1 million highly educated and skilled immigrants are in the United States legally on visas that they hope will lead to green cards and permanent resident status. But because the federal government issues so few green cards each year, many of these people face a decade or more in legal limbo; they can't even change jobs lest they go to the back of the line.

As a result, a lot of these immigrants are becoming frustrated and talking of returning home to places like India or China, where opportunities are exponentially greater than when they left. If they do, many will take back top-shelf educations, business know-how and high-tech patents developed while here. Not to mention a substantial amount of money.

"The U.S. is headed for a massive, reverse brain drain," Wadhwa warns.

But there is a legal way to jump the green card line. The EB-5, or investor visa, program offers foreign nationals a chance to get provisional green cards for themselves and their immediate family members if they invest $500,000 in a high-unemployment area. If those investments create at least 10 jobs for American workers, the green cards become permanent. Under the law, 10,000 green cards a year are available through this program - yet in Fiscal 2007, the agency that administers the program awarded only 803 conditional green cards.

Beginning with a meeting Aggarwahl hosted in Akron during the winter, Wadhwa and the local network have been considering a marketing pitch to immigrants in techheavy areas such as California’s Silicon Valley and metro Boston that would go something like this: Invest in Northeast Ohio. Join a tech scene that’s beginning to attract serious money from venture capitalists and offers access to major universities and first-tier research centers. Tap an array of services, including BioEnterprise and JumpStart, designed to help startups grow to scale. Enjoy an enviable quality of life at a fraction of what you’d pay on either coast. Put your family on the priceless road to American citizenship.

Pittsburgh (I recall seeing the city as one of the listed "regional centers" eligible for the visa program) could do something similar. The State of Vermont is already benefiting. I would think that the Mayor of Braddock (John Fetterman) would be interested. Does Youngstown qualify?

Currently missing from the Cleveland equation is a "champion" dedicated to taking full advantage of the EB-5 visa incentive. This kind of human capital management is the frontier of immigration policy and Rust Belt cities are just beginning to scramble in order to catch up with the geography of talent migration. But I'm wary of the parochial attitudes prevalent in the mega-region. I suggest a Cleveburgh collaboration, an office minding the issues of migration weighing on economic development throughout the corridor.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Immigrant Network Economy

Say Richard Herman and the Great Lakes cohort convince Congress to create a Rust Belt High Skilled Immigration Zone. Then what? One problem facing the Postindustrial Heartland is the abundance of highly risk averse residents. Not only is there a lack of entrepreneurs, venture capital is still notoriously conservative. (Might Youngstown emerge as a notable exception to the rule?) Enter The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), a networking group of India-born international migrants:

TiE quickly became the one-stop source for Indo-Americans who wanted to launch a start-up, but were repeatedly turned away from Sand Hill Road. In the early 1980s, Kanwal Rekhi cracked through this resistance when he received funding for his start-up, Excelan, a computer networking company, which went public and eventually merged with Novell.

"They made over 100 times their investment," said Rekhi, a TiE co-founder. "We produced over 100 millionaires."

Nonetheless, Indians in the valley still struggled to get funding well into the late 1990s.

"When I'd send them to VCs, they'd all get turned down. They were seen as people who could design and write software," recalled Rekhi. "But to run a company and manage people - there was no history of that."

Venture capital used to be tight in Silicon Valley as well, but TiE managed to loosen the purse strings. TiE already has chapters in Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Chicago. Might this group be able to break open Rust Belt banks as they did a decade ago in the Bay Area?

Vivek Wadhwa told the City Club of Cleveland to unleash immigrant entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio. The carrot to attract these innovation dynamos is a Green Card. Byzantine immigration regulations are a significant drag on the American knowledge economy and Indians are lined up for 5-10 years seeking permanent residency. This legal limbo is not conducive to a start-up, but the United States is still dragging its feet in crafting a better economic immigration policy. The European Union is rushing in to fill the void.

What all of the above spells is a tremendous economic opportunity (e.g. Fast Track Green Cards) for shrinking cities, which I will detail tomorrow.

Globalization Illinois

Interrupting the scheduled blog post about Rust Belt immigration, Richard Longworth spoke at the University of Illinois at Springfield and there is video of his talk. When I find some time to watch it, I'll provide some commentary on what he said.

Edit: I watched the video, which is very short and offers just a few sound bytes from Dick's talk. The clip does capture his overall message. The Midwest is failing to deal with globalization and something has to change.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Economic Immigration

Yesterday, I wrote about the coming battle royale between the United States and the European Union over talent. I want to make two points of clarification concerning that post. First, while nation-states make and enforce immigration policy, sub-national entities such as world cities are trying to wrest some control over the flows of human capital. The economic opportunities that proximity affords make certain urban regions the draw, not nation-states. The scales of immigration policy and economic development are at odds.

Second, Rust Belt cities haven't turned a blind eye towards immigration. Managing talent assets is relatively new to the urban policy agenda, but mitigating brain drain (in terms of out-migration) is dominating the discourse. However, I'm beginning to notice a shift in the debate about H-1B visa reform. A recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is a good example of a regional-scale conversation about national immigration policy:

Carnegie Mellon is at ground zero in the H-1B debate. Nearly 25 percent of its students come from other countries -- primarily India, China and South Korea -- and at the advanced-degree level, 40 percent to 45 percent of master's students and nearly 65 percent of Ph.D. students are foreign-born, said Lisa Krieg, director of the school's Office of International Education.

This term, Ms. Krieg's office surveyed 137 graduating international students, and found that a majority had "a very high or high level of anxiety" about their visa status. Of the 68 who had received job offers by early April, more than a third were told by employers that they either would have to work for the firm outside the United States until visa issues were resolved, or would not get the offer at all until a visa was obtained.

While the number of international students winning jobs undoubtedly has improved in the last six weeks, said Paul Fowler, director of the school's Career Center, the visa restrictions are still a major concern.

Putting aside the intriguing tension between the needs of CMU graduates and the City of Pittsburgh, the region has a stake in any kind of immigration reform. I've labeled this problem the "Mobility Paradox." As regions invest in local human capital, the likelihood of more of the population leaving in search of opportunity increases. As education increases, geographic mobility increases. This migration dynamic (education as a push factor) emphasizes the importance of attracting new people to the region. For Pittsburgh, universities such as CMU are vital engines of in-migration (just as they are a powerful force for out-migration). The current H-1B visa program curtails Pittsburgh's ability to reap the talent rewards from CMU and the University of Pittsburgh.

If you will, US immigration policy is partly responsible for shrinking cities and the debt burden they typically shoulder.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Green Card, Blue Card

Over the past week, I've been collecting articles on immigration, the theme for this week's series of blog posts. I'll start off framing the debate. Raghav Singh, partner at The A-List in Minneapolis, looks at "The New War for Talent" between the United States and Europe (along with other countries starved for human capital):

Currently, 85% of global unskilled labor goes to the European Union and only 5% to the United States. In contrast, 55% of qualified immigrants head for the United States and only 5% to Europe. With the Blue Card, the EU hopes to reduce the imbalance.

The EU and other countries may well succeed because their criteria for handing out permanent residency permits and work visas are much more liberal than those in the U.S., and the procedures will be simpler. Some allow employers to hand out residency permits along with offer letters.

In the EU, for jobs where a citizen is not available, an immigrant would only need to show a degree and three years of experience. Recognizing the need to attract young talent to Europe, immigrants under age 30 would have even easier requirements in qualifying for Blue Card status.

Demographically speaking, Europe is already where the United States is heading: An aging population and a shortage of young, skilled workers. A preview of the looming crisis exists in shrinking cities such as Pittsburgh. Regardless, US immigration policy is falling behind the rest of the world.

Rust Belt cities should be leading the charge to implement an economic strategy for immigration. But Richard Herman's suggestion for a Rust Belt High Skill Immigration Zone has yet to capture the imagination of the voters. I have a theory that might explain the apathy. The popular perception of the problem in the Postindustrial Heartland is that all the young talent is still leaving the region in huge numbers. The hope is to solve local problems with local people. Therefore, most new policies are framed in terms of retaining residents, not attracting new ones. The irony is that one of the glaring gaps in US immigration policy is the lack of a coherent approach to keeping well-educated immigrants in the United States after they graduate from American universities. In the one case when retaining talent might actually work, citizens and politicians alike are strangely silent.

Our inertia will be a boon to Europe's economy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Interurban Economics

Contrast Youngstown with Allentown. The economic histories of the two cities are similar. However, Allentown is now thriving and Youngstown is still struggling to make the postindustrial turn. What's the difference? A Youngstown Vindicator article offers up the proximity rationale:

Youngstown, like Allentown, is close in proximity to major cities. “But unlike Philadelphia and D.C., Cleveland and Pittsburgh are also [depressed] rust belt cities,” [Bill Lawson, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society’s executive director,] says. “They just don’t have the economic power to influence Youngstown.”

I don't entirely agree with Mr. Lawson's assessment, but I understand his point. There isn't enough economic development in either Cleveland or Pittsburgh to spillover into the Mahoning Valley. I think this shortcoming highlights the need for inter-regional cooperation. If Cleveburgh cities could act in concert, instead of competing, then Youngstown could make the economic transition more quickly.

Youngstown State University (YSU) is the keystone to economic connectivity between Cleveland and Pittsburgh:

YSU is constantly looking for ways to offer added value to products made by local manufacturers, he said, pointing to ties with the local aluminum extrusion business, one of the largest in the country, as an example.

The university is also looking to step into the “tech belt” between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, a goal being pushed by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, Humphries said.

YSU opened its College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics last fall, developing the STEM program as a way to address the future economic well-being of the region, state and nation. School officials said at the time that it was important to align academic programs to address those growing fields.

If the fortunes do indeed flip for the Cleveburgh Corridor, the Allentown lesson teaches us that cities such as Johnstown, Erie, and Buffalo would benefit. And what NYC and Philadelphia are doing for Rust Belt cities in Eastern Pennsylvania, Chicago is not doing for Rust Belt cities in Eastern Ohio. In fact, I suspect that Washington, DC asserts a greater positive influence. I recommend splitting the Great Lakes Union into two mega-regions: Upper Great Lakes and Lower Great Lakes. I believe Cleveburgh could be the center of the Lower Great Lakes Economic Initiative. Chicago is the obvious center for the Upper Great Lakes Economic Initiative. But that's merely my Cleveburgh-centric perspective.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rust Belt Urbanophilia

Thanks to I Will Shout Youngstown for bringing this interview with Phil Kidd (the force behind Defend Youngstown) to my attention. I'll start with what attracted the interviewer and show host of Lincoln Avenue, Sherry Linkon, to the Phil Kidd story:

One of the things that has impressed me about Phil is his ability to turn ideas into action. I’m excited about all the thoughtful conversation that has developed out of the “thinkers and drinkers” gatherings, but I’m also always a little skeptical about the value of talk. And yet I know from my own experience how easy it is to comment on issues and how much harder it is to go out and do something. But Phil has a philosophy about how to make things happen. He believes that getting people involved means creating opportunities for them to speak and act, and those who have the resources and power to make things happen need to listen to what others want, not just forge ahead on their own. He understands, too, that community engagement is not only a good way to get things done but also a way to transform the community by building relationships and changing attitudes. He also knows how to organize a project, a skill he says he learned in the military.

Translating blog posts into economic development is something that continues to concern me. I appreciate how Mr. Kidd uses talk as a means to an end. Listening to him reflect on his various projects I can tell that he is action-oriented.

In and of itself, a blog isn't anything special. However, blogging has transformed my world and brought me into contact with a number of inspirational people such as Phil Kidd. The part of Mr. Kidd's narrative that really hit home is how a Pittsburgh native came to champion Youngstown. Is this an identifiable phenomenon? Braddock Mayor John Fetterman is from York, PA and is working to improve a part of Pittsburgh. A woman from Youngstown heads up GLUE Cleveland. Doug Heuck, editor of a magazine (Pittsburgh Quarterly) that puts the best face on Pittsburgh I could ever imagine, is from Cincinnati. And, of course, yours truly was born in Erie and leading the charge for the Burgh Diaspora.

Mega-regional brain circulation?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

GLUE Milwaukee

Thanks to Rust Belt Blogger Dan Knauss for the update on GLUE's recent activities in Milwaukee:

Over the weekend Sarah and Abby visited Milwaukee, met people in the fledgling group here, and took a bunch of impromptu and pre-arranged mini tours including City Hall and Urban Anthropology's "River Cultures" tour, which included a documentary on urban indians and a boat ride from Walker's Point up through a few bridges to downtown and back. The boat's captain, a 34 year MPS industrial ed. veteran and lifelong diver, was a wealth of stories and information. One notable nugget: diving and salvage work has boomed and becomes a lot safer due to the radically increased visibility in the lake water, thanks to the otherwise environmentally destructive zebra and quagga mussels. Ed Werstein introduced Sarah and Abby to Spotted Eagle, Inc. where he works as an employment and training specialist, interfacing with the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) initiative.

There is much more information at Dan's blog and he lists more items of interest in his "upcoming" queue.

Stripping for Cleveburgh

A few weeks ago, I stopped posting blog releases mostly because I provide permanent links to the websites requesting publicity. If you would like me to add your website to my blog roll, send me a request (jimrussell [at] globalburgh [dot] com). However, if I can work your event into a relevant blog post, I'll do it.

I gather the Full Monty at the Oakland in Youngstown is thrilling audiences. I understand the added shows for this weekend are officially designated as a Cleveburgh cultural event. I hereby intend to once again post blog releases, but only for Cleveburgh events. This will be my very minor contribution to building the interstate regional identity.

Without much further ado:


Wanna see the show again? Dying to see it for the first time but can't make the 8 pm show? This is your chance to see The Full Monty like no one has seen it before...with an EXTENDED ENDING!!!! (wink).

Come check out THE FULL MONTY at the OAKLAND CENTER FOR THE ARTS for a special midnight show. If we don't sell out, we won't go on, so buy your tickets today!

330.746.0404 for reservations. PASS IT ON!!!!!

Cleveland Upside

If you know where to look, you can find life in the Rust Belt. There are two sides to any city and economic development is notoriously uneven. The most popular metric for city health is population. I guess the maxim is that people vote with their feet. Of course, there is no consideration of replacement rates and dependency ratios, but I'll return to that rant next Monday. Even in shrinking cities, there is plenty of opportunity:

"Most people know Cleveland by the Browns or The Flats," says Marc Lefkowitz. From the roof of his office building, which is dotted with native wildflowers and grasses, he gestures to the downtown skyline -- marked by the iconic Mittal Steel smokestacks that gave The Flats neighborhood its name -- and toward the beloved football team's stadium along the shimmering shores of Lake Erie.

That two-pronged version of the city's reputation may be wishful thinking on the part of Lefkowitz, web editor for a local green nonprofit called Green City Blue Lake. Because most people -- if they give Cleveland much thought at all -- probably see it as a Rust Belt city, a victim of white flight and the decaying industrial economy, and of environmental gaffes in the 1970s when Lake Erie was declared dead and the nearby Cuyahoga River was so choked with pollution that it caught fire.

The good news is, those ecological and economic atrocities planted the seeds of an early social justice, anti-poverty, and environmental movement in the city that has of late begun to blossom into a full-fledged sustainability movement. Cleveland is one of a handful of cities in the Rust Belt -- including Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Columbus -- that are reinventing the region as a sort of Green Belt.

This story is becoming a common refrain. My heritage aside, I'm attracted to Rust Belt economic development because the problem is difficult to solve. A few years ago, I contemplated moving to Appalachia in order to teach people living there how to cope with globalization. Events conspired and I jumped feet first into Pittsburgh's latest renaissance. I'm not alone on this path.

The list of liabilities for shrinking cities is daunting. But the passion these places invoke is inspiring. My main concern is how we will handle success. If all goes well, non-natives (domestic and international) will transform our cities into something local boosters will not recognize. For now, the romanticism and nostalgia for home is useful. But is any development, welcome development?

GLUE Globalization

Lately, Milwaukee is the place to be:

[Richard] Longworth, now a senior fellow at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, is author of "Caught in the Middle," the most comprehensive look we've seen on the effects of globalization on the Midwest. Longworth said at an Editorial Board meeting this week that he expects to launch the Global Midwest Forum this fall to work on such pressing topics as manufacturing, immigration, water and high-speed rail. [Sarah] Szurpicki and [Abby] Wilson, in town the same day, told us their Web site, which will facilitate information-sharing between residents of Great Lakes urban areas, will be fully operational in June.

Albeit informally, the efforts to revitalize the economy of the Postindustrial Heartland are already connected. In my estimation, John Austin is at the center of this activity. I hope he has enough gravity to bring together all the current energy and excitement in a constructive manner because something special is brewing in the Rust Belt.

I'll continue to promote Pittsburgh and the Cleveburgh economic corridor. I will also champion policies that aim to attract human capital to the mega-region. Come the Rust Belt Bloggers Summit in July, I should know where to focus my own efforts. Regardless, there is a lot going on and now is a good time to get involved.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Global Midwest Forum

Somehow I missed this article in the Monday edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

It's a case of desperation, and it explains what's at stake as the Midwest grapples with global competition, said Richard Longworth, a senior fellow at the foreign affairs organization and author of a recent book "Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism."

"Youngstown, if it's lucky, will always be about half the size it was," Longworth said in a speech to the Greater Milwaukee Committee. "Of course, if it's unlucky, it will be a lot less than half."

The council will hold a conference in Chicago on Oct. 6 to convene supporters for a proposed Global Midwest Forum - a group that will help coordinate states that share history, economy, politics and a patchwork of empty factories and dying downtowns.

The forum would address issues such as manufacturing, high-speed rail, water-technology and Great Lakes water usage, and ways to harness research universities in the region. The council is so confident that the think tank will garner sufficient support that its first policy paper has been planned. The paper will examine immigration, which divides the region and its politicians, Longworth said.

Backers of the forum include Carlos Santiago, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"I see myself as a partner," Santiago said, adding that he's eager for Milwaukee to bridge ties to Chicago. As it is now, Longworth argues, Milwaukee is economically tied to Chicago but politically tethered to Madison, while Chicago politically is bound to Springfield, leaving a vacuum within the giant Chicago-Milwaukee metroplex.

Other supporters include James Duderstadt, the former president of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; and John Austin, who directs the Great Lakes Economic Initiative at the Brookings Institution, Longworth said.

I'm thrilled to discover that the Global Midwest Forum idea will receive serious consideration. I'm sure a number of Rust Belt Bloggers would be interested in attending the conference. I hope registration will be open. I'll post updates as I unearth them.

Urban Innovation Geographies

I'm trying to work through my pessimism concerning the transformation of the Rust Belt to the Green Belt. Perhaps I'm erroneously making economic clustering into a zero-sum game, but isn't that the guiding principle of comparative advantage? I've used this perspective to understand the promise of Youngstown, which I see as a unique urban frontier geography. Given the typical inherent political gridlock, I doubt many shrinking cities could follow this path of innovation.

The fragmented political geographies of cities such as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati harbor Youngstown-like opportunity. For instance, look at Braddock:

PAUL SOLMAN: [Braddock Mayor John] Fetterman lives in an old warehouse, has added a penthouse of shipping containers. To Mayor John, as he's now known, the near-ghost town is an eco-experiment in Rust Belt renewal.

JOHN FETTERMAN: The attraction I think is the overall malignant beauty of Braddock and the history involved. And what's left, I think, is a community that has to reinvent itself.

For a Rust Belt neighborhood where economic development would seem impossible, Mayor John only sees possibility. As long as commodity prices remain high, urban homesteading and the associated environmental benefits should be viable. Instead of lamenting Braddock as a forgotten part of Pittsburgh, Fetterman is taking advantage of the ample political space. I think Youngstown is part of the same movement.

Instead of consolidating government and upscaling political efficacy, perhaps shrinking cities should embrace the Balkanization that once served them so well (served industrial capitalists, anyway). I have in mind how the evolution of the European Union has engendered the ironic result of increased subnationalism. The increased autonomy of Scotland has benefits for the United Kingdom. A diversity of political economy might be a good thing.

When it comes to parochial geographies, how many cities can hold a candle to Pittsburgh?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Innovation Cluster Wars

As far as I'm concerned, Denver and the State of Colorado won the battle to become the center of US alternative energy economy when ConocoPhillips announced its plans to base its green tech research in Louisville (not the one in Kentucky). Thus, I wasn't surprised to see the following post last Friday in Great Lakes Guy:

On Monday May 5 Vestas Wind Systems fired off a terse letter to Michigan bemoaning the lack of courage and umph in the state's proposed renewable energy law. Essentially, Vestas said 'we want to make next generation energy technology in your stumbling, unemployed state but your policy isn't drawing us in."

Today, the company announced plans to construct the world's largest wind-turbine-tower manufacturing plant in.....drum roll.....Colorado.

The move will leverage approximately $250 million in new investment and employ 400 people by the end of 2010, according to the report in the Denver Post.

I'm not sure if Michigan could make a sweet enough offer because Vestas forged ahead with its Colorado plans without the usual carrots in place. I've been telling students at a local community college where I teach to obtain skills demanded by companies in the energy sector. The Colorado oil industry is already going full tilt and making regular visits to the high schools. I expect a similar boom in alternative energy employment once ConocoPhillips gets its campus up and running.

Midwest Exodus

Brewed Fresh Daily noticed an NPR story about the Midwest's brain drain problem. The crisis is framed in terms of out-migration and described in apocalyptic terms. I listened to the podcast twice to make sure I heard what I thought I heard. Perhaps NPR unfairly edited the interviews with policy analysts and academics, but a nuanced understanding of the demography was not forthcoming.

NPR took a decidedly sensationalist angle, as the title of the story demonstrates: Young Workers Flee Midwestern States. Rarely do journalists scratch beneath the surface of brain drain hysteria and discover a much more complex problem. NPR did not mention the lack of in-migration or declining birth rates. Instead, an aging Michigan is simply the result of young people leaving after they graduate. If the Rust Belt is going to grapple with human capital deficits successfully, the mega-region must first grasp fully the demographic landscape. Unfortunately, the media is not helping matters.

Rust Belt Community Anchors

Via the Creative Class blog, an article about how colleges are helping struggling communities make the transition to a post-industrial economy:

In old mill towns and declining manufacturing centers, in the Rust Belt's former company towns and in the rural South, small, private liberal-arts institutions like King's are assuming a greater responsibility for community and economic development. They and their alumni are raising money to purchase abandoned buildings. They are relocating college facilities, like bookstores and residence halls, to buoy up urban cores. They are working to better connect faculty experts with local entrepreneurs.

College alumni are acting in the very same capacity I envision for urban diaspora networks. Seems to me that educating locals and sending them away to find success is beginning to pay off for these communities.

San Francisco, PA

Sim Ops Studios Inc. is making the move from Pittsburgh to San Francisco because that's where the money is:

Founder and CEO Shauna Tellerman will make the move, putting her closer to Levinson Partners, a San Francisco venture firm, which is a new investor in Sim Ops, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Perhaps this news is cause for hand wringing, but I'm more inclined to celebrate. The Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University continues to produce start-ups worthy of substantial venture capital. As long as the ETC is still located in Pittsburgh, most of the knowledge spillover will remain local.

While Pittsburgh venture capital works through its conservative phase, the ETC creativity engine will continue to churn out quality graduates and business spinoffs. That Pittsburgh is the incubation site of such innovation is exciting. The entrepreneurial landscape will eventually mature. In the meantime, bring your ideas to Pittsburgh if you are interested in funding for a new business.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Brain Exchange Cincyburgh

Dropping Richard Longworth's name drew my attention to an Urbanophile blog post about the wonders of Cincinnati:

Yet, I'm always befuddled as well as I puzzle a great conundrum: if Cincinnati is so great, how come it isn't the San Francisco of the Midwest instead of a typical, modestly stagnated Midwestern city?

I'm struck by the similarities between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. I don't know how Richard Longworth would evaluate the ability of each city to cope with globalization because neither are included in the definition of the Midwest mega-region. But I am interested in discovering what makes Cincinnati different from Pittsburgh.

The Urbanophile doesn't claim to know why all of Cincinnati's wonderful urban assets have not translated into economic success, but the blog does offer one possible rationale:

It just goes to show that what I said in my pecha kucha presentation was true: cities are about people, not just buildings. All the great geography, architecture, etc. in the world isn't a sufficient condition to create a thriving, dynamic city.

I'd bet the above is true for most shrinking cities. Rust Belt urbanism is a treasure trove for any aficionado of place. Lacking is a critical mass of dynamic people. Many movers and shakers are migrants, the mobile class. But the Postindustrial Heartland isn't importing as many of these people as it is exporting (net "brain drain").

I'm not a fan of working against the grain of geographic mobility. However, I don't see anything wrong with encouraging intra-regional migration. If the best and the brightest must leave, why not keep them within the mega-region? Pittsburgh talent seeking new horizons goes to Cincinnati; and Cincinnati talent seeking new horizons goes to Cincinnati. I realize that might seem too incestuous, but I'm confident that there is enough geographic variation within the Great Lakes Union to provide novel opportunity. At the very least, we might begin to dismantle those silos that Richard Longworth laments as holding the Midwest back.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Scotland's China Strategy

Here is a fascinating article detailing the economic connectivity between Scotland and China:

Scotland's Strategy For A Stronger Engagement With China, published in August 2006, is seen by the former first minister Jack McConnell as one of his significant successes. It identified four key points of entry into China for Scottish companies. They were: micro/opto electronics; energy; financial services and education and life sciences. The SNP-led Scottish government is due to publish a "refreshed" version of the Labour/LibDem strategy, taking into account recent changes.

The first Asian conference of the business network Globalscot takes place in Hong Kong on September 18-19.

I chose the above passage because of its reference to Globalscot and the importance of the Scottish Diaspora to Scotland's China strategy.

Cleveburgh Tech Block

Techtown Youngstown is attracting innovation from Akron and Pittsburgh:

To replace Turning Technologies, the incubator has accepted two small software companies from Akron and Pittsburgh and is talking with 18 others. Cossler said he expects nine or 10 of those companies to be ready to move into the incubator in the next 12 months.

Another company interested in Tech Block is a software developer from Tacoma, Wash., which was founded by a Mahoning Valley native. The company has six employees and nearly $1 million in sales. The founder doesn’t need the normal startup services provided by the incubator but is attracted to the cluster of tech companies that Tech Block intends to provide, Cossler said.

People outside of the area started noticing Youngstown when Turning Technologies last year was ranked by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the country, but attracting the Tacoma company would help greatly in marketing Tech Block, Cossler said.

Remember what I wrote about breaking the proximity rule of venture capital?

Rust Belt Knowledge Economy

Read about the common economic struggles of cities in Ohio and Pennsylvania:

Sixty-five urban areas around the United States are having trouble making the transition from an industrial-based economy to a knowledge-based one, and are struggling in the global economy. Pennsylvania and Ohio have more of them than any other state: Allentown, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Reading, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia; Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Mansfield, Youngstown and Warren. But it's a national phenomenon: Detroit; Los Angeles; Milwaukee; Oakland, Calif.; and St. Louis are also suffering from slow employment growth, a diminishing tax base, aging infrastructure.

Just how big is the shrinking cities network?

When Human Capital Won't Leave

I've claimed that I could author a blog only about brain drain. This past week was particularly fruitful and I have a queue of stories I could use for a post. Today's tale concerns Northeastern Wisconsin, home to Green Bay:

"When you talk about brain drain, it's not so much specific bodies leaving the area. It's that we don't have a brain gain," said Mark Harris, manager of organizational development for Enzymatic Therapy in Green Bay.

Surveys conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay show that nearly 90 percent of its graduates remain in Wisconsin and more than 70 percent remain within 50 miles of Green Bay.

"We do have a small percentage of our students who do want to leave and go somewhere else. It is by far a very, very small number," said Linda Peacock-Landrum, placement director at UW-Green Bay.

Contrast the above narrative with this article in the Green Bay Post-Gazette:

Mining local talent early and creating a strong sense of community can not only enhance work force development in our area, but also give young people a strong and vibrant community they'll want to remain a part of, experts say.

Both stories reference the ability of the region to retain its graduates. However, the local workforce requires more training to meet the needs of businesses. Yet the thrust of Green Bay's solution is to decrease out-migration and induce more expatriates to return.

My first impulse is to scratch my head. Where is the strategy to attract new residents? Well, perhaps I don't fully understand the problem. Of those who do leave Green Bay, what is their level of educational attainment? Another read of both articles reveals an interest in that more elusive demographic:

Graphic designer Luis Avalos went to work for Arketype in Green Bay about three years ago, after graduating from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

"I was looking at going to Chicago and those big cities where they have more advertising agencies, but one of my teachers suggested trying Arketype … so I tried it and I like," he said.

If your hometown is going to invest more in its human capital, you best have a few initiatives in place to convince them to stay. Good luck, Green Bay.

Tacit Knowledge and Talent Migration

The New York Times delves into the [sometimes shady] world of international student recruiting:

Still, many educators remain ambivalent about the practice. Philip G. Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, said he had a knee-jerk aversion to commissioned agents. “There are a lot of bottom feeders out there,” he said.

But he has come to realize that overseas agents can help faraway families.

“In a globalized world, where some people need a lot of guidance to get here, there may be a legitimate place for responsible middlemen,” he said, then added, “although I really hate it.”

Guidance is necessary for most long distance migration. How strong numbers of international students arrive annually at Skagit Valley Community College should interest cities such as Pittsburgh, which struggle to attract international and domestic migrants. However, there is still the sticky wicket of enough jobs to employ new immigrants.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Flight of the Buffalo Bills

Speculation in the Welland Tribune that the Buffalo Bills will soon take up residence in the same city as Richard Florida:

But a jury would need little - if any - deliberation in the case of the Buffalo Bills' long-term survival in western New York. News that the deepest pockets in Toronto will be paying nearly five times the cost of the highest-priced ticket at Ralph Wilson Stadium for "renting" the Bills for eight games over the next five seasons must read like an obituary back home in the Rust Belt that Buffalo has become since the steel industry followed the money to more profitable climes.

Would fans from Buffalo make the trek to Toronto to watch their beloved Bills? Mulling that over makes me wonder if there are any Blue Jays fans in Western New York.

Friday, May 09, 2008

GLUE Cleveland

How about forming a GLUE chapter for Cleveburgh? Offering something sticky for Rust Belt expatriates would also be appreciated. Here is a short story (podcast) from WKSU about GLUE Cleveland. I was interested to learn that the person who is heading up GLUE Cleveland is from Youngstown.

Human Capital Crisis

Staying with the brain drain theme, the looming demographic time bomb has Chenango County scrambling for talent (I'm pasting in the entire article because I don't see a dedicated url for the information):

Perfect Storm: The Impending Workforce Crisis

In the movie The Perfect Storm, a small fishing vessel has the misfortune of encountering the worst Mother Nature has to offer. Just like this boat, today's employers are facing a combination of conditions just as threatening as those on the high seas. With a slumping economy, skyrocketing oil prices and a shrinking workforce, businesses must be prepared for the worst--or they could face a similar misfortune.

Over the next decade, the leadership talent pool (ages 35-44) will be reduced by 9 percent. That number will shrink by another 10 percent by 2020 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, International Database. Five issues all employers should be concerned with include:

  • Not enough bodies. The growth in the working-age population is screeching to a halt.
  • The workforce is getting older. The U.S. population 2000-2010 shows a rapid growth in the over-55 workforce. This means the leadership pool is shrinking.
  • Inappropriately skilled workers. Over the next decade only 30 percent of 21-year-olds will obtain a college degree, while over 90 percent of the new jobs created in the U.S. will require a college degree.
  • A highly diverse workforce. The emerging workforce contains the diverse values of the following generational groups: Traditionalist, Leading-edge Boomer, Trailing-edge Boomer, Generation X and Generation Y.
  • Less desire for a leg up. All groups are showing a decline in their desire for greater responsibility.

Some perspective
With a pattern of declining birthrates, skill shortages and an increasingly older population, we see a common pattern affecting the workforce of the industrialized world. In the U.S. we have the added situation of "boomers" and "echo-boomers," which indicates that changes in the workforce are not going away anytime soon.

Compounding the issue, experts say only 30 percent of 20-year-olds will obtain a college degree during the next decade. The bottom line is HR will have to change the "requirements" of job descriptions to "desires," and employers will need to spend more time educating and training their workforce, Erickson says.

Additionally, organizations face increased ethnic, generational and racial diversity. These diverse values and generational differences place a greater demand on managers and leaders. They need to be managed and led in a different manner. Employers need to be looking at ways to converge HR and training as a standard practice to keep pace in a highly complex labor market. Organizations need to gear up for this now by asking the following questions:

  • Are your managers and leaders able to cultivate the diversity, generational differences and shifting talents of today’s workforce?
  • Will they be able to lead teams to increase productivity and high performance?
  • Have you put plans in place to increase professional development in your organization?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, or if you are not sure, you may have reason to be concerned about the future of your company.

A solution
Cultivate the potential of each person. Build greater flexibility in your work hours. Discover what satisfies and dissatisfies each generation. The 35-45 year olds are looking for more family time and are less willing to take on greater responsibility. You may want to include the following in your plan:

  1. Start with a sound hiring strategy for the best talent that meets or exceeds current and future needs.
  2. Create a plan for retaining new and identifying existing talent in the organization.
  3. Examine workplace dimensions such as leadership, communication, training and recognition.
  4. Create a training program for existing managers and up-and-coming leaders in the 25-34 year-old group that focuses on:
  • Maintaining and enhancing team member self-esteem.
  • Behavior--what team members do rather than their attitudes or personal characteristics?
  • Encouraging team member participation in decision-making and problem solving.

Fortunately, there is still time to put your organizational plan in place. Recognize that the world around you is changing. It includes the new millennium workforce that has totally different needs and expectations. It is about adapting. Prepare now and avoid being caught in the storm.

One response to the human capital crisis is to promote boomerang migration:

Class member Jennifer Tavares, who works in the economic development office at Commerce Chenango, explained the class came up with the idea for the “Come on home, Chenango” project after they realized they wanted to draw people back. Local physician Dr. Thomas Holmes took the idea and ran with it, drafting a letter. The class decided to distribute the letter, along with informative pamphlets about what Chenango County has to offer, to residents who have left the area.

The Leadership Chenango class identified goals for the project, which include attracting young families and retirees back to Chenango County, inspiring businesses to be created or relocated in this area, preventing the “brain drain,” helping to grow Chenango’s economy and tax base and continuing to invest in Chenango County so it will grow and prosper.

“It doesn’t have to be young families,” Tavares explained. “It can be retirees, or anyone who has lived or worked in the community who is looking to come back. We certainly want to reach out to those people, too.”

Just to dump some more information and overload this humble blog post, further consider a guest column written by a Toledo resident:

Young smart people need to have some experience in other regions of the country to appreciate what their hometown has to offer; the grass is not always greener concept. That experience could be found in going away to school or finding gainful employment in larger or smaller markets.

If we retain the 50+ group in our region, chances are that the younger smart people will return. Why? Family ties are the top reason kids return home. If we retain the 50+ people, we have a greater chance of the young, smart Brain Drainers returning.

Your community might be busy crafting an initiative to bring home your prodigal daughters and sons. If so, I have a recommendation. Target the 50+ demographic currently residing in your region. Do so will provide a valuable link to all that wayward human capital. The second target should be working-age women, who are more likely to follow the chain migration home. Anticipating that coming talent return flow, endeavor to transform the occupational landscape to be more accommodating to the career needs of women.

You're welcome, Chenango.