Friday, December 31, 2010

Saginaw County Diaspora

Regions waste a lot of time and resources worrying about who moves away from the community. You shouldn't expect the best and brightest to stay whether you live in Michigan or Texas. The context is irrelevant. Smart people leave.

Smart people, particularly women, also return. Saginaw County ignores the low-hanging fruit:

Tina Choudhri, a medical resident in Washington, D.C., said she felt it was expected that graduates would leave Saginaw for college and careers. Choudhri completed her undergraduate studies at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, and went to medical school at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She said she has no plans to head back north anytime soon.

“Family would be the biggest draw to come back, but there are just more jobs, more opportunities elsewhere,” she said.
The Saginaw Valley Young Professionals Network, organized through the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce, is working to combat brain drain by helping young professionals get involved and make connections that benefit their careers.

Family exerts a powerful pull on talent. Instead, Saginaw focuses on restricting geographic mobility. It's like encouraging young adults to drop out of high school. Be poor and stuck in Michigan. Why not network expatriates such as Tina Choudhri?

When we discuss the population numbers, we emphasize outmigration. We don't consider natural decline, replacement rates, or immigration. Policymakers are woefully, sometimes willfully, ignorant of demography. Year-after-year, we try the same retention initiatives. We replicate failure. We undermine prosperity.

Why not network expatriates such as Tina Choudhri? The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce could do it. Talk about making connections that would benefit careers, there is nothing more empowering than introducing young professionals to successful expatriates. Develop people, not places.

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