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Turning brain drain into brain gain

Commentary: Thoughts On Economic Development

Many different factors influence where people choose to live. A lot remain where they were born and raised throughout their entire lives. Some find their dream jobs in their hometowns. Others stay simply because being near family is more important to them than anything else. Some think they cannot financially afford to move. Others are fearful of the unknown and unfamiliar.

Those choosing to relocate also do so for many different reasons, but there are some themes. Some seek things a community can’t change, like different weather. Others want a lower cost of living or a higher standard of living. Some are following a romantic partner or seeking a new one. Some want to get away from family or friends they think are bad influences. Some want to experience life independently and don’t think they can do that without moving away. Others feel like they’re stuck in a rut, seek adventure, or simply want a change of scenery. However, the vast majority, many of whom are among the brightest, leave for better job opportunities.

The most common periods of life when people move are soon after significant life events, like a graduation or the end or beginning of a romantic relationship. Some move to further their education elsewhere or to join the military. Others decide to accept a job in a different community, often because they feel their career prospects are too limited at home.

Communities wanting to continue to grow and improve must convince more high achievers to stay and attract more highly skilled, well-educated people to join the community. That’s because communities with many smart go-getters create a higher quality of life for everyone living there. Communities need more capable and creative types that improve established businesses and industries while also starting exciting new ventures.

Consequently, if they want to attract more of the best and brightest, communities have to identify and promote all of the things their community offers that make people happy.

While people want different things, generally, most seek an excellent living environment, a social network, and work-life balance. That includes things like a reasonable commute, a pleasant work environment, or the ability to work from home. They expect to find a suitable rental to live in or to be able to purchase a home. They require access to first-rate health care. Many people want good schools for their kids and themselves. Some need reliable child care. People also want plentiful entertainment and recreational options. Other things, like low crime rates, may also factor in their decision-making process, but people expect high quality and affordability in all things.

Chautauqua County features everything needed to prevent the loss of our best people and to draw more like them to this area. Our overall cost of living is low. The county has world-class educational opportunities, museums, music, and arts venues. Plenty of professional sports teams play nearby. Options for outdoor activities, including water sports, skiing, hiking, hunting, fishing, and camping abound. The area features a diverse array of restaurants serving fabulous cuisine in all price ranges. Fresh locally produced foods and beverages are available at every turn. There are also thriving businesses here with well-paying jobs and chances for advancement.

It’s time to turn Brain Drain into Brain Gain.

Patty Hammond is Economic Development Coordinator at the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation. The Local Economic Development (LED) Initiative is a standing committee of the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation (NCCF). Send comments or suggestions to Patty Hammond at phammond@nccfoundation.org.

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