Friday, December 04, 2009

MPowered Boomerang Migrants

Back in late October, I looked at university entrepreneurship programs that aim to benefit the host community. Montana State is producing entrepreneurs only to see them leave for greener pastures. I see a similar story in Ann Arbor, Michigan:

MPowered began a few years ago when two students had a dream to make Ann Arbor the Silicon Valley of the Midwest. Today, it’s a student group at the University of Michigan that gives members the skills they need to become entrepreneurs. It has almost 100 members and is growing fast. ...

... “So it doesn’t matter if people want to start their own business or go into finance or go into engineering or become a musician, people always need leader. People need that creative mindset, people who actually can lead and make that first step. We feel that we are actually instilling that unique quality into students and I feel like that is really invaluable,” Chan said.

And if these students stay in Michigan and start a business here, that’s a double win for the state.

Of course, that's a big "if". I will tell Michigan the same suggestion I made for Montana. MPowered should train (prospective) boomerang migrants to be entrepreneurs. Finding a way to make a living in your hometown or home state is tough. And Rust Belt communities could use more risk takers. Moving back is a lot like managing a startup.

The biggest dividend is educating entrepreneurs who will live and work in Michigan. Young college graduates are the most likely to leave the state. Why not invest in the people who are the most highly motivated to move there?


Christine Borne said...

It seems like I'm always hearing the same suggestion: start your own business. So, I'm just going to ask this question bluntly: what about members of the diaspora who are temperamentally not suited to entrepreneurship? Should they not move back, or should they just wait longer, until more entrepreneur-types do?

Jim Russell said...

The short answer is that I think such boomerang aspirants should stay put. However, I'm describing a policy cost-benefit. If you are going to invest into some sort of migration initiative, then a brain drain plug is the worst option. The best option is to focus on attracting "entrepreneur-types". (e.g. immigrants)

It takes a lot of gumption and guile to move from a shrinking Rust Belt city to an alpha global city such as NYC. But becoming an entrepreneur isn't the only option for those who make the leap. Concerning Rust Belt cities, if you aren't inclined to make your own job, then staying put makes the most economic sense. The other considerations, such as quality of life, might motivate you to move but you'd likely be better off considering a move to a less expensive city with a robust job market.