Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Portland Predicament

Overeducated and underemployed, a PhD flipping burgers. That's the Portland Predicament. Hip destinations "suffer" from a glut of talent. As for college towns, the problem is getting graduates to leave:

“Like the guy who’s almost got a PhD who’s working as a bookstore clerk,” notes Joe Wetmore, who owns what may just be the quintessential college town business, a used bookstore called Autumn Leaves, on Ithaca’s downtown shopping drag.

Wetmore sees people stop by his store all the time, with a lot of degrees, but no work.

“People who come here go to Cornell, get a degree or two, but don’t want to leave,” says Wetmore. “They end up being underemployed just because they want to stay in the region.”

I've seen the same thing going on in Boulder. For somewhat different reasons, I'd include Pittsburgh. The common thread is a low rate of outmigration for the college educated.

InnovationTrail headlines the above article, "Ithaca is a bright spot in upstate jobs picture, but has its dark side too". The dark side is what happens when the brain drain gets plugged. Great, graduates are sticking around town. Now what do you do with them? Regions don't get that far when crafting policy, retention for the sake of retention.

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