Thursday, May 21, 2009

Diaspora Economics: Returning Home

The graphs above sketch Korean brain drain currently attempting to return home. I have the impression that many people are skeptical that Greater Youngstown expatriates would consider moving back. Albeit anecdotal, there is evidence to the contrary.

Some members of the Greater Youngstown Diaspora refuse to slog through another Northeast Ohio winter. We can't do anything about the climate drawbacks. But we can do plenty for the folks aching to wake up each morning in the Steel Valley and indulge in the wonderful cultural assets only home can provide.

The missing piece for the boomerang inclined is economic opportunity. Enter the Defend Youngstown cartel:

It's through this underground network of e-mails and blogs that Kidd began speaking with Jim Cossler, director of the Youngstown Business Incubator. Kidd calls Cossler one of the "heroes of the city," along with boxer Kelly Pavlik, Mayor Williams and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.

"One of the problems with Youngstown is that it never engaged 20-somethings. I think that Phil and the others are doing a phenomenal job at doing something. We have a diaspora of 20-somethings that have left Youngstown," Cossler said.

He and Kidd exchanged e-mails for a few months and he's kept up with Kidd's blog. Now he reads several local blogs, including Kidd's "The Frontline" and John Slanina's "I Will Shout Youngstown."

"These blogs like Phil's are absolutely critical," Cossler said. "We have to engage the talents that are here now."

Cossler said in his experience, the Internet has been the best way to keep connected with the younger generation of Youngstown that has left. Many of those people he talks to left to find work, he said, but are frequently asking about employment in the city.

"They are staying in touch with their hometown online," Cossler said. "These blogs are a great way for people to do that."

Slanina, known as Janko to his readers, met Kidd through his blog.

"Defend Youngstown fills an important niche in monitoring the progress of our region. It summarizes news, promotes various opinions and spreads information about Youngstown to readers throughout the world," Slanina said.

Slanina said reactions to his blog have been very positive.

"What I have discovered is that there is a very unique and engaged public out there who care deeply about this region, but they are often separated by distance."

While Kidd listed Slanina and Ryan as sources of inspiration for what he's doing, Ryan said he's inspired by Kidd and Slanina.

Ryan said of Kidd, "It's guys like him who inspire me."

"What these guys are doing is great. You have these young people like Phil, Jay Williams, myself, Commissioner John McNally, [state Sen.] Boccieri, who come together for what's best for the community," Ryan said. "You have 2010, the Business Incubator, the air base. There's a lot of really positive things happening in the area."

Ryan said he thought the blogs and Web sites supporting Youngstown were an optimistic sign.

"We're finally at a point where we're not letting other people define us. We're defining ourselves," Ryan said. "We're finally at a point where we're not accepting the definition of outsiders. It's a big shift. I think that we've been on the abuse side of that long enough."

The emphasis (passage in bold) is my own doing. Above are the usual suspects for Youngstown's revitalization. Cossler's experience is no different than the story about Koreans studying abroad. Expatriates are looking for opportunities close to home.

If you don't mind a little advice, then I'll tell you that Youngstown is all about making your own opportunity. This isn't just a dream, a vision of the future. This is right now.

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