Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Brain Drain Report: Zero Sum Game

The Ohio exodus continues. Scrambling to stick a few more fingers in the talent dam, Columbus is churning out a fresh round of initiatives. Spearheading the charge is Compete Columbus. However, the telling quote comes from Urban Ventures:

"We believe that this age group is the creative energy and entrepreneurial spirit that drives the 21st-century economy," said Mike Brown, the city's Urban Ventures coordinator.

The city should try to keep or lure back young people who attended school or worked in their first jobs here, Brown said.

Plus ca change ...

In Wisconsin, the flagship university for the state located in Madison plans to reach out to graduates to reprise their college days:

A new partnership of the Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA) and Competitive Wisconsin Inc. (CWI) will encourage University of Wisconsin-Madison graduates to return to Wisconsin to live and work. The partnership is funded in part by a $25,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce.

The grant will support targeted marketing efforts to reverse the state's so-called "brain drain" and increase per capita income in the state by matching Wisconsin businesses, regional partnerships or early stage investment groups with UW-Madison alumni to explore employment, advancement or investment opportunities in Wisconsin.

"Brain drain," you say? Not according to one study:

Despite all the talk of a "brain drain," most Wisconsinites never move out of the state, according to a new study. The study says if natives do move out of state, they are likely to come back.

The U.S. Census Bureau says 3 out of 4 adult Wisconsin residents who were born in America were born in the state. The figure ties Iowa for the 7th highest percentage of adult natives.

This is both good and bad, according to observers. Researchers with the Brookings Institution says more folks care about their communities because they have such deep roots here. But states with fewer natives tend to have higher population growth, like Florida and Nevada.

Within the state, Appleton has the highest percentage of natives still hanging around at 78 percent. Madison has the lowest percentage of natives at 63 percent.

Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna says Wisconsin needs to do a better job of attracting outsiders. He says it will happen slowly as the state drifts away from some of its manufacturing roots.

Hanna says Wisconsin has an excellent quality of life. One reason is that it doesn't take long to get to work. The Census Bureau says the state’s average commute was 21 minutes last year, the 38th longest in the country.

To be fair, Wisconsin is primarily talking about attracting talent, not retention. But one state's gain is another state's loss. There aren't enough people of working age to raise all economic boats. Usually, the United States can fall back on large numbers of immigrants, but other countries (notably Australia) are bending over backwards to steal a greater market share. Furthermore, America is settling into a protectionsit/isolationist mood. The fight for domestic graduates will only get more fierce.

No comments: