I think Jim Russell is on to something important with his return-migration thesis, but I would like to persuade him to see pro-density land use planning and placemaking strategies as complementing this trend, not as competing alternatives to the economic development of people.
At the end, there’s a quote that seems like fodder for a Burgh Diaspora blog post. Paul Melchiorre left Philadelphia, honed his skills elsewhere, and then moved back to the city to apply his talents:
All this is very different from when Melchiorre, a South Philly native, finished school and went to work in IT a generation back. “We couldn’t wait to get out of the city. Of course that was many years ago,” he told me. “Philly is changing for the better and tech companies are realizing that. This is as good an area to build a tech company as Boston, Austin, or San Francisco.”
But above that, there’s a quote that sounds like fodder for a Jon Geeting blog post:
iPipeline, the Exton-based insurance-sales software maker, is the latest suburban tech firm to add a Center City office in hopes of luring young engineers, programmers and IT salespeople […]
It’s what you have to do these days to hire “scarce technical talent,” says Paul Melchiorre, the Villanova and Drexel grad and SAP and Ariba veteran who’s president of iPipeline.”These kids are staying in the city. They want to work where they play. We need to be here to make sure we continue to attract the future A players. This office will be a youthful environment more akin to a Silicon Valley company, with an open floor plan, and, of course, a pool table.”
I don’t want to try to persuade Jim that placemaking is more important than developing humans. But I do think that nice amenities have an important role to play in attracting residents and businesses.
For example, I am moving to Philadelphia in July, defiantly bucking the trend of PA political journos moving to Pittsburgh. And while my number one objective is finding a good-paying interesting job somewhere in the nexus of politics, advocacy and journalism (hire me), my number two objective is having a nice house in a walkable neighborhood close to transit, in a good public school catchment zone, that’s a short walk away from a coffee shop, breakfast spot, and a few neighborhood bars. I could be persuaded to live somewhere with fewer nice amenities for a job I like more, but I could also be persuaded to take a job I’d like somewhat less to live in a somewhat nicer area. I assume other people are making similar trade-offs in their own lives.