Monday, February 23, 2009

Brain Dead Cleveland Plus

The long list of failed efforts to keep college graduates in the region hasn't stopped Northeast Ohio (NEO) from recycling brain drain policy. All NEO needs is a fresh rebranding effort:

One way to hang onto the college students is to show them the great assets of Northeast Ohio and engage them in the life and vibrancy of our region. That is the idea behind the latest piece of the Cleveland Plus marketing campaign. The Plus College web site connects college students with arts, recreational, job and other opportunities in the region. Check out the possibilities at

Trying to keep young adults from relocating is a bad idea. A more worthwhile campaign would target nearby talent pools, such as the one in Pittsburgh. Burgh twentysomethings have little to no clue as to the opportunities in Youngstown or other parts of NEO. Tech Belt champion Jason Altimire made his first ever trip to Cleveland in January of 2009 in order to speak to the City Club about the initiative. The audience was somewhat amazed by his confession.

Graduates know more about the scenes in Seattle, Los Angeles, or Austin than they do about nightlife in neighboring Rust Belt cities. This mega-regional churn is highly undervalued. We need to rethink our labor market orientation and retool our workforce development strategies. A sharp looking website touting the cultural assets of the region to its student population does neither.


John Morris said...

I not sure your making much sense here. As far as I know, a lot of Cleveland's best schools like Case Western and The Cleveland Institute of Art Attract a lot of kids from outside the Cleveland area so making sure these kids know more about the city and it's oppotunities would in fact help it attract people from outside the area.

We know that Case Western is a leading medical school and The cleveland Art Institute is a leader in areas like Industrial design.

Only if those schools were only attracting local kids, would your comment make sense.

Jim Russell said...

Your network migration theory is fine for attracting more prospective students to regional colleges and universities, but it doesn't address the perceived brain drain problem.

Whether or not NEO higher-education is attracting outsiders isn't the issue. The goal is to retain them once they graduate, regardless of prior residency.

John Morris said...

I'm not always clear in expressing myself. I would define people who came from outside the area to attend school as new migrants-- potential new residents from outside the area.

These people represent the largest potential pool of new residents for many cities. In the case of Cleveland, colleges and hospitals likely attract the bulk of new migrants.

An attempt to educate local high school students about local assets would likely be a waste and tell them things they likely know. However, a Pre Med major at Case Western or a tech student at CMU is likely far too busy and pressured to fully know the place they are living in well.

We both would likely agree that to a large extent it's a moot discussion since current immigration laws will likely kick a lot of the foreign kids out of the country with their elite skills in hand. A lot of these kids like Pittsburgh but they would be breaking the law if they stayed.

Jim Russell said...

Trying to retain out-of-town college graduates is old hat. NEO joins many other regions doing the same thing. Philly is a good example. The thinking goes like this:

If the students knew how great the area really is, then they wouldn't leave.

The solution is just a rehash of the ridiculous Border Guard Bob campaign. Amazingly, past failed policies get recycled using new mediums. But the repackaging of stale ideas isn't working.

John Morris said...

I just don't think your right here. Pittsburgh is starting to retain a lot more of it's graduates and a lot more of them are stating a desire to stay in town. Partly, this is because of a relatively stronger job market but some kind of attitude change is likely a big factor. I think Google said it opened it's office here because too many of it's best prospects didn't want to leave the area. What role "booster" outreach and stuff like POP City played in making this change is not clear.

Jim Russell said...

Pittsburgh is starting to retain a lot more of it's graduates and a lot more of them are stating a desire to stay in town.

How about some numbers? How much is "a lot more"?

I'm skeptical of your claim for a number of reasons, but I don't have any data handy that says otherwise.

Christine Borne said...

Hmm. My experience has been that the non-natives who like it best in Cleveland are those from (for lack of a better phrase - sorry, it's early) *less interesting* parts of Ohio or its bordering states.

When people ask me why young people should stay in Cleveland, I say that they shouldn't. They should move away and experience other places. I think everyone should, whether you grew up in the Rust Belt or New York. But then, that's talking about natives, and I don't think that's who the Cle+ campaign is aimed at.

Rick said...

Good day, all:
I think you may be giving Plus College a little too much credit. Northeast Ohio (NEO) already retains a high number of graduates compared to the state’s average. Of course, retention rates vary widely by type of institution and type of degree. For example, for associate degrees, the Ohio Board of Regents March 2008 report shows that NEO community and technical colleges retain graduates between 85-91% and university regional campuses from 80-93% (state average is 88% for both). For bachelor’s degrees, university main campuses in NEO range from 79-83% (state average is 76%). For bachelor’s degrees at private colleges, there is a bigger range in this report: from 37% for Oberlin to 53% for Case to 83% for Ursuline. Most are in the 70%-80% range (state average is 72%).

The Plus College effort simply wants to engage more of the region's 180,000 students in our region so that they have a better understanding of what we have to offer. Some will be too busy, some already know and some won't care, but we think (and our experience shows) given the opportunity many will take advantage of it. It's not intended as a silver bullet for retention.

You'll note the site not only offers "incentives" to influence students to visit our many attractions and events; it also connects them with internship opportunities provided through the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education. As you know, internships can lead to jobs, which is the ultimate form of retention.

Thanks for the opportunity to chime in.
Rick Batyko
Cleveland Plus