Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mapping Talent Linkages

Yesterday, I was researching innovative uses of migration data and stumbled upon this gem for the University of Louisville (published in 2005). More on that report in a minute. I've blogged so much over the past few years that I have to make sure I didn't previously write about what seems to be a discovery. Looking back through the blog and references to Louisville (Kentucky), I found the source of my contention that most outsiders harbor misperceptions about Denver (Colorado). From the focus of the post:

"We've historically had a difficult time getting employees for companies in the Northeast to move to Denver," Clark said. "Even if those interns choose to take jobs in the Northeast, their experience in Denver will probably help us in the long term with other people."

Clark thinks those unfamiliar with Denver often find it to be "a delightful surprise."

"At a minimum they're ambassadors for the high quality of life in Denver," said Rowan Claypool, who started the first such Yale internship program in Louisville, Ky., nine years ago because Louisville was experiencing a brain drain.

Since that program started, 27 of the former interns moved to Louisville - a preview of the kind of impact the Denver program might have.

"This is changing the course of the river," Claypool said.

You see the connection to Louisville. The main issue is how geographic stereotypes influence migration. Denver is on the mental maps of East Coast talent, but not in a good way (e.g. too much snow). Sound familiar, Pittsburgh?

Mesofacts are difficult to overcome concerning talent attraction. One way around the negative stereotypes is to cultivate a legion of ambassadors to sing the praises of your region. As you might note from the Yale internship program, the number of participants is very small. Your city could approach this campaign more strategically, mapping the established patterns of talent connectivity:

Migration links communities, whether they are neighborhoods or entire metro areas, through an on-going physical exchange of people. As Ravenstein observed over a century ago, each main current of migration produces a compensating counter-current. Over time, these exchanges establish relationships, human linkages, between communities. In this report, we explore the linkages that migration has forged for the Louisville metro area.

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson has a message for Tampa Bay's young professionals: Pack your bags for Kentucky.

Sure, he says, the Bay area has great beaches and warm winters, but Louisville has a growing economy with lots of companies that are hiring. And the city has a vast supply of good Kentucky bourbon to boot.

That's the message Abramson hopes to spread in Tampa on Thursday night when he hosts a party dubbed The Louisville Reunion. More than 1,000 people with a connection to Louisville or Kentucky have received invitations.

Abramson said he will be armed with plenty of Maker's Mark bourbon candy and top-shelf samples of the liquor. Most important, he said, he's bringing contacts from major companies willing to collect resumes and talk with job candidates.

"The reality is, if you're 23 to 35 and you've gotten married, you might be starting a family and you're tired of commuting from the suburbs," Abramson said. "You might be scratching your head and remembering what was good back home."

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio scoffed at the idea of Louisville stealing young professionals.

"It seems kind of strange to me that a mayor from another city would do that," she said. "If he wants to get a Cuban sandwich with me, I'll give him a tour, and then he might want to move here himself."

When Tim Logan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch contacted me about best practices for luring expatriates back home, I immediately thought of Louisville. At the time, I had no idea that the city had done such impressive and creative research into the migration patterns for the region. I'd like to see such an analysis for all Rust Belt communities.

The result would be a sea of change for regional talent management policy. Workforce development needs to emerge from the Industrial Era and embrace economic globalization. Urban connectivity profiling is a good place to start. Visualize the impact of your community well beyond the pale.

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