The statistics are saying that El Paso County lost 8 percent of its workers between the age of 25 and 34, and Denver lost even more – 13 percent.
I agree with Lorne Kramer’s column last week. He said that culture, arts, diversity and a high quality of life are important to keep the creative class of younger workers here to accomplish our work force growth plans.
Let us take the brain-drain concept to another level. Who is tracking the return of the 34- to 40-year-olds?
How many of you, after graduating from college or high school, thought “there is no way I am staying in my hometown” and went out to see the world?
How many of you lived in cities other than your hometown or college town after graduating? I can see a lot of hands being raised.
After I graduated from college, there was no way I was going to go back to Downers Grove, Ill., to hang around and look for a job. I went sailing.
In the late 1990s, almost every state with a business journal that was a member of the Alliance of Area Business Publications started a magazine, usually called Next, a guide to life in (insert your state here) after high school.
The folks at the Northern Colorado Business Report are publishing one. There are others: Florida Next, Indiana Next, Pennsylvania Next – and the list goes on.
My point is that these regions jumped on the Chicken Little, oh-no-all-of-our-young-smart-people-are-leaving bandwagon. Well, if everyone in these regions is wringing their hands about young people leaving, worried that only the old and infirm will be left to grow our businesses, where are the young people going?
I propose that every region has a brain-drain issue at some level, and I think it is overestimated. When I am interviewing a prospective employee, I consider it to be more of a liability than an asset if they stayed in the same town after graduating from either high school or college.
Emotional intelligence has more to do with life experiences than knowledge does.
Compare for a moment a young person graduating from college at the top of his or her class who stayed in the same city to find a career to a lower-performing college graduate (me) who went out and experienced different cultures, events and interaction, learning from different people.
I am betting the person who went out and experienced the world is going to make a better employee than the person who graduated summa cum laude and goes to work right away in the same community.
So, back to my question: Who is tracking the return of the 34- to 40-year-olds?
I believe that, after these people go out and live in other places and have other experiences, they are coming back to the Springs. These people are better able to offer a contribution to our community – with ideas and experiences – than when they left. They are more stable and more experienced.
We have all the quality-of-life things here, although we do need to work on diversity and transportation issues.
This is a great place to raise a family. We have two great hospitals, great weather, outdoor activities and you can be skiing at some of the best mountains in the world within two hours.
So, the next time one of those “the sky is falling, the kids are leaving” reports come out, relax, sit back and think of what you were doing (or not doing) when you were 27 years old.
I hope it brings back fond memories.
Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at lon.matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5202.