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blueblackcat

How to fight the Brain Drain

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I want to get this topic started and hope others will find it interesting and respond with their own ideas.

There's a lot of places around Pittsburgh filled with old one-factory towns and very little infastructure, nothing to really give them a sustainable base. I've driven through some places that don't seem to have much more than a diner and a retirement home for young people to find job opportunities, but people try to stay because of the seniors who are too old or too stubborn to relocate and people try to stick together. But when they move, they seem to go somewhere else other than Pittsburgh!

Most of these towns weren't built with any knowable urban planning and I'm not sure what kind of realistic lifestyle they were trying to achieve. When the one-factory in town runs the mass transit system, provides steam for heating homes, and sponsors the local government, you're going to have a crisis much bigger than lost jobs when the factory closes. They were never sustainable over the long run, which makes them quite different from Pittsburgh with it's massive infastructure. Pittsburgh can recover and reinvent itself, these other towns may never see good times again.

I think these people are valuable assets that Pittsburgh can seek to attract. The city should create stronger incentives for the young people who are moving away from those places to find jobs.

For example, there could be a rebate given to targeted young renters. It could be taken from the property taxes that their landlord pays, or to be more sophisticated, it could be funded by extra tax revenue generated if bars and clubs are allowed to stay open 120 minutes longer on Fridays and Saturdays. We could increase revenu be implementing a fairly stiff after-hours drink tax, ie $1 per drink for each additional hour after 2am. This money could be a new way to fund programs for young transplants and recent graduates just as property taxes fund schools.

They could be spared taxes on the necessities to a young transplant, such as home supplies and furniture. We live in a high-tech age now, so we could implement different kinds of programs cheaply by electronically verifying driver's license and bank information at the store rather than having 20-somethings send in copies of receits for a rebate, which no 20-something would ever do. A cheap and secure verification scheme could also be an excellent incentive for other places who strive to attract newcomers, such as movie theatres, museums, amusement parks, to create discounts of their own. You could be put on this list if you just moved here, just graduated college, or maybe even if you've unfortunately just lost a job.

My opinion is that these kinds of programs would cost nothing to the city. The alternative is Brain Drain, and there are no tax revenues from that.

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Some good ideas Blueblack!

Trivia for everybody out there every river town (well 80% of them) were founded how?

As "company towns" easily controllable in the 19th century industrial era by the US Steels (towns named after 2 of its CEOs), Gulf Oils and BlawKnoxs (town named after), Dravos (town named after), and PPGs (town losely named after) of the world.

One of the reasons the 1928 merger vote (oh by the way we won, but the politicos found a way not to merge) was never implemented was that the big companies could control regulations much better when they owned 20 borough councils rather then deal with the city council of the 7th largest american city for all the world to know.

Anyways back on topic. My idea for a long time has been to offer student loan repayment if the college student (think what is the best thing we have going for us as far as getting young workers tied to the 'burgh) commits to a Pittsburgh company for at least 5-10 years (more then likely they will stay on way way after that since by your 30s you get tired of moving).

I like your ideas Blueblack, especially on making the rebates etc. easy to get. I wonder if we could do a "tax holiday week" or something of that nature to get worldwide press attention to the 'burgh every year, could make it right after April 15th so every businessman in the world hears about us when their tax scar is the deepest. Great publicity if you ask me, Mayor O'Connor giving a giagantic check for so many hundreds of thousands (could we do a million) to the area small business association for "tax free month" in Pittsburgh on small businesses. Networks would fall all overthemselves to cover that on April 16th every year. You couldn't pay for better publicity--of course we should make sure that our tax structure is among the best in the nation before we go for the spotlight!

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A great deal of these towns (tho not all) are along the rivers. There is a strong effort trying to connect them. This may help. It seems so many of these towns are attempting salvation by tearing down the very heart of the towns. This is a mistake. Government money would be much better spent in preserving existing structures and right of ways instilling a sense of pride. Instead they seem to opt for "clear cutting". Making one place indistinguishable from another. I am currently involved with the powers that be to keep from tearing down my home towns main street for a few generic office buildings. These small ton politicians are misguided. This is a problem with so many of these small towns. They are run by, well meaning, but under qualified people with outdated solutions. I wish there was a stronger regional alliance that gives more guidance. There are some towns that are thriving, usually centering around the preservation of the towns heritage and other towns that are undermining there futures with failing "quick fix" developments.

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All good ideas. A couple of things come to mind for me...

1. The brain drain isn't as bad as many people think it is. Perhaps one step toward keeping more young people here is to stop bemoaning this alleged brain drain. I am not saying we don't need to keep and attract more young people, but I don't think we suffer from the brain drain we once did. 50% of college grads stick around, which is about the same as the national average. The real issue is bringing in new people from outside the region. And who would want to move to a place where everyone is talking about brain drain?

2. It's probably quite true that (like you said) young people in towns like McKeesport and Newcastle leave the region rather than moving into the city. I am sure some incentives like you suggested would be great. But I think perhaps part of the problem is this: Someone who grew up in Newcastle may well never have visited the city. They may believe the whole region is just like their town! Some good internal marketing would help people to see the variety available to them in the region, and maybe they'd be more likely to stay.

Good thread. I am always interested in this issue.

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One of the reasons the 1928 merger vote (oh by the way we won, but the politicos found a way not to merge) was never implemented was that the big companies could control regulations much better when they owned 20 borough councils rather then deal with the city council of the 7th largest american city for all the world to know.

What was the 1928 merger vote?

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I do think that many of the steps that are being taken in this region are doing the right things. Downtown residential developments, South Side Works, river front parks. We have come a very long way. It is hard for us to imagine that we could compare ourselves to places like Atlanta or Portland, but remember where we were 20 years ago. The reality is we have changed much more than any city I know of, and I know a lot of them. We have made a huge commitment and a full 180. We have picked ourselves up, we are dusting ourselves off, now we are ready to compete. The fall of the steel industry left us, I believe, more crippled than Katrina left New Orleans and we never received 80 billion dollars to dig ourselves out. We were abandoned. We're doing well and will do better.

:D

Also......

60% of the apartments and condos that are downtown or nearby are full of people that have transferred here from elsewhere. That says a lot as to the direction we are taking :thumbsup: .

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What was the 1928 merger vote?

Here is an excellent link Urban,

http://www.briem.com/frag/FedPgh4.htm

It's Chris Breim's web site (click the link up top for his 21st century analysis of it and other period pieces on the vote and proposal). Basically what happened was that the simple majority of county residents approved the plan but it ALSO had to carry simple majoritys of 2/3rds of all the cities in the county or some strange thing, on this it was "defeated" but the joke of it is that the stipulation was inserted by some Hburg politicos at the last minute by the request of various interested parties. True you are entereing the realm of conspiracy theories but it is strange that the original referendum was altered in some dark smoke filled room in Hburg before it won a majority of votes in the county.

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I agree that Pittsburgh has come a long way, even noticeable to me in the 8 years I've been here. But I think there are missed opportunities around every corner. Marketing is one of the other problems, like Gerbil said. Especially when a lot of kids don't know that their little town isn't everything the region has to offer.

And it's not just some gimicky TV commercial that we're missing. Just take PAT for example. At least having a system map at bus stops would help people explore, and a lot of young people dont have cars. In Paris I went straight from the airport to the Metro and they had several different formats of their system map to get me going to my hotel and to all the spots I wanted to visit. One of the Paris offerings are transit maps with pictures denoting all the big landmarks. Another are prominent maps on main streetcorners with locations of all the surrounding hotels. Meanwhile the first time I drove to Pittsburgh I didn't even have a clue about how to find an affordable hotel to do my apartment hunting from. And how many Pitt students know that they can easily take any bus going downtown and hop on the T to get to South Hills Mall? Maybe 2% ?

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Valid points

but all fareness, I lived in Paris and most cities in America lack in that area. They have been adding info Kiosks on downtown corners. I just noticed a new one at Mellon Square so they must be in the works. There are few cities in the world that can compare to Paris' tourist readiness. Most american cities are set up for travelers by car im afraid.

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Good point urbani, in a large way Pittsburgh is not thinking about tourists and thats a real shame. We need to view ourselves as if we were spending our first day in the 'burgh, from a new view so-to-speak. A lot of little things could be done to revamp the city tommorrow if people had the will and the imagination.

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Good point urbani, in a large way Pittsburgh is not thinking about tourists and thats a real shame. We need to view ourselves as if we were spending our first day in the 'burgh, from a new view so-to-speak. A lot of little things could be done to revamp the city tommorrow if people had the will and the imagination.

We have how many thousands of college students moving in every year? It seems when our city thinks about catering to tourists they think of a high budget traveler whose in town on business. It's no wonder that no one can get their mind wrapped around the idea that Pittsburgh is a "tourist destination." So what if they're building an upscale hotel in a new skyscraper? Good tourism not only caters to those people but essentially anyone whose trying to see anything and doesn't yet know the city like the back of their hand, down to just a teenager who just got his first bus pass. That's what Paris does right, and it's not a big expensive proposition.

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You're right Blue, a whole lot of what attracts people to Paris, Rome, LA, Miami Beach is not planned out in Regional Development meetings (though cooridinating through them helps), much of it is the sidewalk level small businessman-woman and the artisans in the community--which Pittsburgh excels in per capita. It just isn't an overwhelming focus of many in the community yet though there are signs that more and more people are realizing that the first thing a person remembers about our region could be your storefront or your sidewalk art.

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Yes. And where the regional development people don't seem to connect the dots is that they know that we have all these young people from the surrounding area who know absolutely nothing about Pittsburgh and they know that a lot of those youth feel that they either don't fit in here or there is nothing to do and so they move out out. And they know that if there is a quality of life issue involved then you can't really reconsile that people are moving out to more expensive places that offer them nothing more than endless sprawl. And the best they try to do is fix this with a sleek TV commercial with some repackaged cost of living factoid? I mean that is like a guy whose too afraid to talk to women buying personals in the paper and saying he's not like the other guys. Why not go out and work on actually attracting more youth by thinking of them as tourists, smoothing out the process of bringing them into the city, putting actually fun destination ideas right on a transit map and giving them tangible incentives that they can point to and say "look, they're actually doing this and this for us." ?

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I cant think of a single city outside of the NE corridor that caterer to tourists properly. My trip to San Francisco last year left me very surprised. Their BART system is separate from the MUNI system. and the bus system. When I got there, I bought a BART pass only to find out it didn't work on anything else. In fact they seem to be in disparate competition. I lived on South Beach and there was little information, or for that matter any acknowledgment of life of the island.

Paris' transportation system is the envy of the world, to compare Pittsburgh to it is unbalanced. I was fascinated how well Paris system was mapped out. Even the lowly bus stop had a small map of the quatier.

I do believe anybody with a student ID rides free in Pittsburgh. Yes it could be better. Most American cities are the same.

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I think these people are valuable assets that Pittsburgh can seek to attract. The city should create stronger incentives for the young people who are moving away from those places to find jobs.

I think you have the right idea. You fight brain drain with strategies that attract brain capital from other places, ideally other regions. Pittsburgh needs to enter the market for attracting any region's out-migration.

Most of the boom cities have much greater out-migration than Pittsburgh.

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This is a little dated... but this 2000 study shows that Pittsburgh had the lowest rate of domestic out-migration in 98-99 of any major U.S. metropolitan area. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh also had the lowest rate of domestic in-migration during that period as well... which was slightly lower than the out-migration. If you look at the chart, most major American metros experienced a net loss in domestic migration... but made up for the loss with international immigration and a birth rate that exceeds death rate.... two factors thave have not affected Pittsburgh.

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This is a little dated... but this 2000 study shows that Pittsburgh had the lowest rate of domestic out-migration in 98-99 of any major U.S. metropolitan area. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh also had the lowest rate of domestic in-migration during that period as well... which was slightly lower than the out-migration. If you look at the chart, most major American metros experienced a net loss in domestic migration... but made up for the loss with international immigration and a birth rate that exceeds death rate.... two factors thave have not affected Pittsburgh.

Education feature in the Sunday New York Times shows PA as a winner for attracting students to higher education. Ohio and New Jersey are big brain drain losers, with Pennsylvania as the regional aberration.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/30/educatio...html?ref=edlife

There is little gain in trying to retain the locals. The game is all about attracting migrants new to the region.

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I've been thinking about some new ideas to add to this old thread, but the PG beat me to it. One of my biggest problems being a student in Pittsburgh were the slum conditions for over-priced off-campus housing. I've got years of nightmare stories that I could add to these articles, including an apartment where we'd have no power for 2-3 days at a time while we waited for the landlord to show up and take his padlock off the circuit breaker box, another one where the ceiling shower caved in from water damage, another where the front door lock didn't work and never got replaced, etc.

Over time, as I've moved further away from the campus areas and saw the quality of housing improve, I've started to come to the realization that the terrible housing conditions are a huge reason why student's don't want to stay in the city. We talk about having quality affordable housing, but the typical Oakland renter whose paying luxury prices for a water damaged, falling down hole in the wall wouldn't know it.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06365/750287-53.stm

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06365/750331-53.stm

It's really good that the city is finally starting to step up inspections of these houses. Students don't feel as if they have a choice... most don't have the transportation and other resources to be able to do a thorough apartment hunt and consider some of the further away neighborhoods such as Mt Washington or Lawrenceville. A lot of them do apartment hunting on foot, and having to take the bus really limits the amount of places they have time to go see. With the limited information they have, it sets them up for abuse by profiteering landlords who couldn't care less if their houses burn down with them in it, if they don't fall down on top of them from water damage first.

Some of my economics professors at Pitt always had a disagreement with me about this, saying that the unlivable housing situation is a result of free market pricing and high demand, and that it is a healthy market. But it's not. These buildings simply don't meet building codes that they're legally required to meet because of a lack of information available to both students and inspectors. This makes it a broken hosing market, IMHO. There is no other way that you can explain why a dilapidated house whose resale value is $89,000 in this "hot market" is getting rented out for $2,000+ per month for multiple students to share without proper fire escapes.

These landlords have to be taken to court, period, and the city and university are the only ones who can do it. Students are powerless here. Whenever some of my friends have gone to court against a landlord, they have all lost and been forced to pay the rent they were with-holding without the judge even as much as bothering to look at the documented claims of how the landlord was violating the lease agreement. Some of these slumlords go even further by making fraudulent demands to keep students' security deposits for preexisting damage that the students did not cause but that the landlord has no intention of fixing, anyway. But judges have always been on the side of the landlords, so there's very little that students can do on their own.

It makes me sick to hear about all these absentee landlords rushing in to make hasty repairs before and after the inspectors come. Believe me, it's not because they haven't heard about the problems before. They claim to be so naively innocent. Yes, how could they possibly fix all these problems such as missing fire alarms and caved in ceilings in all these properties that they own if everyone always "fails" to inform them about it? Well maybe if they got their butts out of Mt Lebanon once in a while they could have just as easily found out about it themselves. These people have no excuse.

But that brings me around to yet another part of this whole equation... the community opposition to developers who want to offer affordable student housing in better neighborhoods. Does everyone remember the opposition to the developer who wanted to keep down the price of rent by putting in more units, by having communal showers in his building? That could have been some very attractive student housing right next to South Side Works and near the Technology Center, both of which are where a lot of students have internships or jobs. The argument against it? It would unleash hordes of barbaric frat boys to wreck havoc on the neighborhood. Yeah... right.

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There are slum lords in every college town. What is going on in Oakland occurs in regions that are not suffering "brain drain" (not that I believe the brain drain hype in the first place).

Students will stay if there are good, salary competitive jobs enticing them after graduation.

I don't mean to give the landlords a pass in this situation, but the issue has little to nothing to do with brain drain. Besides, brain drain isn't the problem.

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There are slum lords in every college town. What is going on in Oakland occurs in regions that are not suffering "brain drain" (not that I believe the brain drain hype in the first place).

Students will stay if there are good, salary competitive jobs enticing them after graduation.

I don't mean to give the landlords a pass in this situation, but the issue has little to nothing to do with brain drain. Besides, brain drain isn't the problem.

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It's ridiculous that parents from all over Pennsylvania spend a large fortune to send their kid to some second-rate college in a Florida beach town. But the reality is that lifestyle IS important, even to young people. It's even more important to them than, say, jobs. And the impression they get as teenagers and college students is what they carry with them to other cities, to other corporations, to management decisions that affect economies everywhere. I don't know why those dots are so hard to connect with conventional wisdom, but I guess it is. Pittsburgh already has the weather and lack of beaches against it. It should be a no-brainer to take advantage of Pittsburgh's biggest strength, the cost of living, and actually help students take advantage of it instead letting absentee landlords take advantage of the students.

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Naming this thread the way I did was partly tongue-in-cheek. The brain drain that I'm talking about here is the overall flight of young people from all the one-factory towns that are dying out in Western PA. I think more should be done to attract them to Pittsburgh for both an education and to stay than is currently being done.

Also from a public policy standpoint, it's just about useless to talk about the need for more jobs. Might as well talk about how we need more rich people. Most of the time when politicians try to "create" jobs they are talking about subsidizing corporations with taxpayer money for more than the salaries are worth. The government can do a hell of a lot more by focusing on human capital and improving services and infrastructure, all of which create sustainable growth that actually attracts new jobs.

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You're okay with stereotyping college students as fickle migrants but you're admitting that they are politically disenfranchised and then you're saying that it has nothing to do with public policy when they choose to move away, and then you're blaming the students themselves for being disenfranchised. But alas, they are fickle and impossible to understand, it's not possible that they are voting with their feet. Beyond that, I don't understand the rationale that it's not worthwhile to enforce laws and regulations when they are being abused because it has something to do with "the way things are". So I'll just agree to disagree.

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You're okay with stereotyping college students as fickle migrants but you're admitting that they are politically disenfranchised and then you're saying that it has nothing to do with public policy when they choose to move away, and then you're blaming the students themselves for being disenfranchised. But alas, they are fickle and impossible to understand, it's not possible that they are voting with their feet. Beyond that, I don't understand the rationale that it's not worthwhile to enforce laws and regulations when they are being abused because it has something to do with "the way things are". So I'll just agree to disagree.

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I was using the terms student and graduate rather interchangeably here because I was thinking more about how their opinions are formed over time than as it being separate groups that should be catered to separately.

But college students aren't so immobile, either. What low vacancy rates don't tell us is who lives there and for how long. In my opinion it's mostly younger students with fewer resources who fill in vacancies left by others who are trying to get out of there as soon as they can.

I like the idea of universities getting more involved in enforcement, but it's still the city's job to enforce those codes whether or not the school is pushing for it. The downside of it is that the universities also want to make good neighbors and not be seen as overstepping their bounds and trying to do the city's job. I am pretty sure that the city wouldn't mind going in and inspecting all of these properties, many of which aren't even owned by persons who live in or vote in the city. I think that in general the problem is mostly the lack of awareness. Now it's being fixed because it's an issue of safety and a number of people have died to make it news worthy. But it could have been addressed long ago if there was a more focused effort improve quality of life for students.

I also like the idea of developing transit to better neighborhoods, but in most cases that's really going to come down to the role PAT plays and more often than not a meandering catch-all route such as the 54C. Realistically, in a large city like Pittsburgh, having universities set up redundant transit systems going out beyond campus isn't the most practical solution, although it's a great idea at least for now, I guess.

But the main point I want to get back to is that we are not selling to our strengths. Student housing in Pittsburgh could both be a lot cheaper and much safer at the same time. It would help more working class families from the old mill towns send their kids to college for the first time. Yes it's obviously great to get students from Texas to India and Japan and be able to raise attendance and raise the prestige of the schools. But then there's a missed opportunity to make the schools more affordable for everyone, make FSU less attractive to some, etc.

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