Monday, August 25, 2008

Rust Belt Homecoming

The blog fodder is a bit thin today. So, I'll share a diaspora story I've been tracking over the last two months: Homecoming Scotland 2009. Pittsburghers might note that Scotland is celebrating (in a fashion) its own 250th anniversary, that of Robert Burns' birth. Some of you may have taken part in a Burns Supper, which is held annually on January 25th and enjoys worldwide recognition.

The primary goal of the homecoming is not to entice boomerang migration, but increase tourism and deepen Scotland's global links. The program is not without its critics:

[Former Scottish Labour Party leader Jack McConnell] told The Herald: "Our international strategy for Scotland needs to be wider than North America, Australia and New Zealand and it needs to look at the modern world in its entirety - making Scotland a location of choice for tourists from Asia, who are going to be the biggest tourist market in the world 20 years from now, but also those with diaspora connections in other parts of the world. I'm extremely disappointed the First Minister has such a limited vision of this, but I hope that, on reflection, he will be willing to think again."

Read the comments below the article. Some of them are hysterically funny. I don't see Homecoming as a global initiative to increase tourism, but I do appreciate Mr. McConnell's position that Scotland is missing an opportunity to tap into growing markets. But the aim would appear to be a windfall from people taking a heritage vacation. I don't get the sense that the celebration is a networking event. That is too bad.

Scotland is an excellent model for the Rust Belt to follow, particularly in view of out-migration as a potential economic asset. Homecoming Rust Belt could attract the tourists who still considered themselves Industrial Heartland natives. Actually, many of the people who left your city probably are not all that far away. And a little networking or encouragement to boomerang back home couldn't hurt.

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