Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tech Belt Expatriate Talent

(Hat tip Null Space) Pittsburgh graces the cover of the latest Site Selection magazine. Skimming the article, a passage catches my eye:

As Labor Day approached to end the summer of 2009, 20th Century Fox was approaching Pittsburgh to film its $90-million action thriller "Unstoppable," starring Denzel Washington, thanks in part to an incentive program to attract such activity to the Commonwealth. But it also came thanks to having a new place to do its work: Mogul Mind Studios, which is investing $30 million to renovate the former Pittsburgh Flat Roll complex in the Strip District along the Allegheny River.

The tracks that used to carry raw material for steel products now carry the locomotive at the center of that film's storyline. John Yost, a Pittsburgh native and CEO of Mogul Mind, hopes the runaway train is a perfect metaphor for the growth potential of entertainment production in the region. ...

... 2008 saw 11 productions with a $50-million economic impact come to southwest Pennsylvania, drawn in part by that 2004 film incentive program offered by the state. Yost says he'd like to see the $75-million program remove its cap: "If it was unlimited, we'd literally take all of those runaway projects from Canada and bring them here," he says, pegging the cost advantage over a Hollywood production at between 20 percent and 30 percent – "It will be 30 to 40 percent when I'm done," he says.

Asked if he looked outside the area for his site, Yost said, "Never. I'm a kid from Pittsburgh. I lived in New York and in Germany, but I'm a kid from Pennsylvania. If I were to run for president, my attitude would be 'America first.' So here's my attitude – Pennsylvania first. We have a tremendous brain drain, with wonderful minds leaving our state to find jobs."

He says he's received a lot of queries from expatriate talent since his project first got going in summer 2008, people who "would love to come home."

From Cleveland to Pittsburgh, a lot of smart people want to return. But there isn't one place an interested person could turn. Greater Youngstown 2.0 intends to address this shortcoming.

Regardless, regional workforce development initiatives would be wise to direct more resources towards talent attraction and boomerang migration. What's the best approach to helping expatriates come home? We should think more about how to tap these Rust Belt refugees.

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