Saturday, August 09, 2008


Choose between the following two talent management policies:

1) Design a strategy that will effectively keep high school and college graduates in your region.

2) Entice those who left to return.

The ideal approach is to attract and retain new labor, but that's much easier said than done. The alternative is to seek some sort of advantage. Common heritage is the heart of the much ballyhooed trend of brain circulation. At least there is some precedent of this working. The other idea is to keep the people from leaving, the hard work of getting them there in the first place already accomplished. I'm aware of innumerable attempts, but few (if any) successes.

Color me confused when considering a recent exchange between Richard Florida and the Mayor of Lexington, KY:

… The people who are most likely to move in the United States are the young people. People 24 and 25 are the most likely to move. They're anywhere from three times more likely than a 40-year-old, to five times more likely than a 50-year-old and seven to 10 times more likely than a 60-year-old. So if you're playing this game as a community of attracting them back when they are 35, you have a losing proposition, because two to three times less people move at that age. So what's happening is, those places that are attracting lots of people after college are getting an enormous advantage. Yes, many of those kids will leave; yes, many of those kids will find it won't be the place they'll want to raise their kids and they'll want to move somewhere else. But at the end of the day, they are going to have an advantage. So in my view, Lexington is a place that should take advantage of this right now. Attracting those kids and nailing them down after they leave college is going to provide benefits not only over their life course but for generations to come.

I buy the difference of geographic mobility between demographic age categories. And, I support the approach of attempting to attract twentysomething post-graduates. However, throwing resources at the retention of those graduates from the University of Kentucky is no different from the parade of failed policies marched out by most states every year to stop brain drain.

... many of those kids will find it won't be the place they'll want to raise their kids and they'll want to move somewhere else.

There is the point of intervention for R2PGH. The desire to put your hometown in your rear view mirror does diminish with time. Not everyone will want to return and a good number will not be able to figure out how to make the move. That's not a problem because the goal is quality of boomerang migrants, not quantity. Rust Belt cities need job creators and policy innovators, not job seekers and rubber stamps. Strategic brain circulation can work, but attracting a critical mass of the creative class is probably a pipe dream.

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