November 10, 2013

Vibrant community key to success

The “brain drain.”

It’s a topic raised in almost any discussion about our region’s future. “We have to stop the brain drain; we can’t afford to keep losing our young people.”

While I understand the sentiment, I just don’t agree with it completely.

Research newspaper archives from any region, urban or rural, and you will find articles lamenting the out migration of its young people. I’ve seen articles on the brain drain in newspapers from Boston to Miami and from Virginia to California. I recently read an article from a newspaper in Taiwan stating that the majority of Taiwanese students who do graduate work in the United States don’t return to Taiwan.

Would it be great if more young people chose to remain here? Probably, but not necessarily. There’s something to be said for “going out into the world” and seeing what it has to offer.

The question is where are young people going when they leave and why are they going there. With so many regions concerned about the brain drain, you might wonder if there’s one place to which all young people are moving.

A millennial nirvana, if you will.

Alas, I doubt such a place exists.

I don’t think young people leaving the region is the problem; quite to the contrary as a matter of fact. I think the problem is many of the out-migration communities are missing the mark on what attracts young people in the first place.

This includes both the large metro areas as well as the small towns, communities like Madison, Wisc., Missoula, Mont., Omaha, Neb., and Yellow Springs, Ohio (isn’t that where I.P. Daley lives?).

There are names for these magnet-like communities. They’re called “cool communities” and “intelligent communities.” It’s gotten to the point that there are rankings for these communities and definitions of attributes that they share. The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) has created indicators “to provide a rural community a standard framework” to create a “Rural Intelligent Community.”

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