Friday, September 21, 2012

Talent Recruitment Cluster

Once a vexing liability, Rust Belt outmigration is turning into an asset. Return migrants are leading the charge. Concerning talent, it is better to give than receive. Cleveland's nascent talent recruitment cluster:

On Wednesday, members of that pitch team joined Gov. John Kasich and Mayor Frank Jackson in celebrating the win during an afternoon event at the Great Lakes Science Center.

They talked about the potential for Alexander Mann, which handles interviewing, hiring and promotions for blue-chip clients, to help improve workforce-development efforts in Northeast Ohio. And they pointed to the Alexander Mann deal, a cooperation between many players, as a model for future successes.

"Where there's one company like this, there are others," said Ed Crawford, chairman and chief executive officer of Park-Ohio Holdings Corp. in Mayfield Heights. "Let's take full advantage of it."

Owned by London private-equity firm Graphite Capital, Alexander Mann is quiet about its financial health. On Wednesday, Blair and John Collington, the company's new chief operating officer, said the business posted double-digit growth in sales and profits during the last four years, despite the global recession.

North and South America represent 7 percent of the company's sales, but Blair sees "significant" growth opportunities. Alexander Mann entered the Americas at its clients' behest and employs 62 people in the United States. Employees are working with five big names: financial-services provider Credit Suisse Group; Cobham, an aerospace company; Nike Inc.; pharmaceutical giant Novartis; and Rolls-Royce.

Blair said she is confident Alexander Mann can serve all of North America from Cleveland. And she's increasingly sure the company can hire the right people here to staff clients in South America. One Northeast Ohio native, who had been working for Alexander Mann in Brazil, recently moved home.

Emphasis added. Just Northeast Ohio? That's small ball. Cleveland is the US headquarters for Alexander Mann. The company could act as an anchor for an emerging cluster around talent recruitment and workforce development. To think even bigger, why not aim to be a global center for such services?

Brain drain Cleveland gives Alexander Mann an extensive network to leverage. On the whole, the Rust Belt is excellent at developing talent that finds success around the world. Outmigration is a form of workforce development. In international economic development circles, that's obvious. In domestic regional economic development, that's heresy. The mantra is to poach from thy neighbor, zero-sum thinking. The suburbs steal from the urban core. Businesses move back to the city. The shell game continues.

To abstract, geographic mobility (like education) empowers workers. Generally, communities are anti-labor. Footing the workforce development bill comes with strings attached. The talent must stay. Retention creates a glut and depresses wages. Sorry, Portland, that's not attractive:

[The researchers’ review] found that Portland is a magnet for the young and college educated from across the country, even though a disproportionate share of them are working part-time or holding jobs that don’t require a degree.

In short, young college grads are moving here, and staying, because they like the city’s amenities and culture, not because they’re chasing jobs. Their participation in the labor force tracks with other cities, but they make 84 cents on the dollar when compared to the average of the 50 largest metropolitan areas, the research found.

“You put all of that together, and it suggests that young people are coming here and they’re trying to make the best of it,” said Greg Schrock, an assistant professor in urban studies at Portland state. “They’re committed to working, they’re committed to trying to make ends meet, but they’re more committed to living in Portland.”

Emphasis added. What this suggests to me is that the talent sticking around isn't all that innovative. Retention shouldn't be a policy goal. It should be a means to some end. Portland has no idea what that end would be. Great, your city is a talent magnet. Now what? I'm hoping that thanks to Alexander Mann, Cleveland will be the place where Portland can find that answer.

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