Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Luring Expatriates Back Home

Last week, I had an email exchange with a journalist who writes for a major Midwestern newspaper. He expressed interest in boomerang initiatives and applying best practices in his own city. He is looking for success stories and I'm not aware of any in the United States. Some promising news in the Great White North:

Despite a lacklustre economy, 25 British Columbia technology companies with an average revenue growth of 75 per cent were named to this year's Ready to Rocket list. ...

... [Reg Nordman (founder and managing partner of the Vancouver-based Rocket Builders)] said the list, which has a global following, was instrumental in convincing British Columbians who had moved elsewhere to return to the province. He said tracking the success of B.C. companies and sharing it helped attract people back.

"We were able to repatriate some extremely qualified people back to B.C.; we were able to reverse the brain drain a bit," he said.

A bold claim that I can't substantiate, but I've been tracking a similar talent migration to Youngstown. The success of the Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI) has garnered the attention of the Mahoning Valley Diaspora. National publicity, such as this positive recognition in Entrepreneur, is resulting in talented expatriates contacting YBI CEO Jim Cossler.

There is considerable latent interest in returning home. The lack of knowledge about opportunities (and how to best pursue them) is a big barrier to this talent flow. What kind of labor shortages are forcing local companies to go outside the region in search of employees? The news of Google's relocation and expanding footprint in Pittsburgh sparked at least one of my readers to inquire about the tech job market. Google hiring sends a strong signal to the most geographically mobile because the company has a globally recognized brand.

I'm inclined to buy Nordman's hype about luring brains back to British Columbia. It is probably a very modest number. That doesn't matter to the talent starved tech companies Nordman's business promotes. The fast growing have pressing needs and highly skilled expatriates are only too glad to fill them.

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