It’s So Important To Keep Talent In Ohio

My jaw dropped this morning as I read Chester Finn’s Wall Street Journal opinion piece titled The Self-Inflicted Economic Death of Ohio.  First, because the piece quantified some of my gut feelings about Ohio’s talent drain, and second, because of the magnitude of the problem.  Mr. Finn, a Dayton native, serves as the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.  It’s mission, from the Institute’s website

Nationally and in our home state of Ohio, we strive to close America’s vexing achievement gaps by raising standards, strengthening accountability, and expanding education options for parents and families

I started this blog with a couple of focused purposes.  One purpose is to highlight the great people that get involved with the local IT community.  Another purpose was to help highlight my relationships so that, as a recruiter, people would know to come to me when they were looking for a new opportunity.  Now that I’m no longer a recruiter, this purpose in the blog will change a bit.

A third purpose is to highlight some of the really talented students graduating from local university programs.  The programs at UC and NKU are really out of this world, and local businesses need to know this.  The students themselves have to experience their value unlocked, here, in Cincinnati, if there is any hope of keeping them around after graduation.  My company, LUCRUM, has hired probably 10 grads from these programs in the last four years.

Behind the scenes, my work on governing boards and with professors serves to forward this agenda as much as I can as an individual.  I’ve also had conversations with some of the local employers, their directors, VPs, and managers, and these folks have shown much interest in developing programs to generate interest in their opportunities as well as developing opportunities worth pursuing.

Mr. Finn’s opinion helped me quanitfy why its so important for the community to work hard to make Ohio a great place to go to school and to stay after graduation.  What you need to know from the piece:

  • Ohio has the fifth-heaviest state and local tax burden (we were 30th in 1990)
  • Unemployment is 6.3% vs. the national average of 5.5%
  • Household income is down .5% to $44,500 while the national average is up 1.6% to $48,500
  • The state lost more than 200,000 non-farm jobs in the last seven years
  • Of Ohio’s 10 largest corporations (think P&G and others) two have posted positive returns this year

Mr. Finn posits:

Any sane strategy for turning this around wold start by strengthening the state’s human capital for globalized, knowledge-based economy while making Ohio more hospitable to high-tech firms.

What else?

  • Ohio ranks 41st in the percentage of adults with a bachelor degree
  • With the exception of students in Columbus, most graduates head for the coasts
  • Bright Ohio kids don’t enroll in local colleges.  In fact, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that almost half of the top high-school seniors head for out-of-state campuses
  • Not a single downtown in Ohio can be considered “lively” at night

What really got my goat, but is fairly expected in an environment like this, is that government continues to grow abetted by rising taxes.  When our families need to live on a budget – and cut the fat when times are tight – our government doesn’t cut, it just raises taxes so that fewer of us shoulder more of the same bottom-line burden.

Mr. Finn goes on to lambaste unions and government as entities that fend off change and demand “ever more burdensome contracts and costlier benefits.”  His perspective takes a decidedly conservative bent, and is a perspective I happen to agree with, although the bashing gets to be a bit much.

What is important to me about Mr. Finn’s opinion is Ohio’s job loss numbers and lack of focus on the high-tech brain-powered jobs.  We have to keep our kids here and give them a reason to be here.  I’ll continue to evaluate if my efforts are focused effectively.  I’m still learning and fear that I’m wasting perhaps 50% of my effort, but I’m learning and I can’t really see a short-cut to effectiveness.  If anyone has any ideas for me and how I could change my approach, I would love to hear them.  I’m flexible and open to change.

Please keep your eyes open for an opportunity to make a difference in your community to keep the best and brightest here.

Thanks for listening.  What do you think?


~ by Andy on June 29, 2008.

11 Responses to “It’s So Important To Keep Talent In Ohio”

  1. Here are some facts from the father of a seventeen year old, as a former owner of a small business, and now an employee of a small business.

    The great values in college education are in other states(e.g. Kentucky, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, etc.). Ohio needs to cut education costs and tuition now. The other states have a better idea and we need to implement it if we want to stop the brain drain.

    I work for a small business and the owner complains weekly that he should close up shop in Ohio and go across the river to Kentucky. He has small business issues and Kentucky looks like they have a better small business environment. Ohio does not have small business issues on any agenda. I think the small business environment in Ohio can be described as the forgotten few.

    The more I talk with teachers and college counselors the more I am convinced that they are predisposed to create liberal arts majors. One of the lamest excuses that I hear from college counselors and the folks who work in college admissions offices is that it does not matter what you study in college. It may not matter for a person with twenty years experience but it definitely matters for newly minted college graduates with no work experience trying to get a job in a technical field. For over thirty years it is still the way human resource people sift out which college graduate is going to get an interview. I highly recommend that college bound students check out schools with active co-op programs. From the employer viewpoint, college graduates with real work experience is like manna from heaven.

    What bugs me the most is that when you tell college counselors what you are seeing firsthand in the job market, they smile and continue to do what they “always” have done”. There is no sense of urgency and a strong allegiance to the status quo even though it does not appear to be working for the students. When I went to school many years ago, the foreign nationals and immigrants had a laser-like focus on what needs to get done in college. They were going to study, work hard, and get the best grades. They knew that employers were predisposed to hire other applicants so they had to be so much better than all of the other applicants it would be foolish for the employer to overlook them. They had a sense of urgency and desperation. These students were formidable curve busters. As a student you had to choose to compete, bring up the rear, or drop out. I chose to compete. I found out that a few of these students were gifted and I would never catch them. All of these students were hard workers. I could catch the less gifted students. A simple lesson that I learned was that they looked smart because they did the home work. I believe we have the students but they are going to the wrong classes. Oh yea! They are going to have to work like they are the immigrants.

  2. Hey Andy,
    I am sorry about the anonymous comment but I am having trouble seeing the input blocks on your theme and hit the Submit Comment by accident. By the way, why is your blog on GMT time?

  3. Bill, thanks for the comment. It’s great to have some firsthand experience ringing in.

    All the formatting issues will be worked out once I can convince my wife of the business case to spend $200 to move to a hosted service and off the generic WordPress site. I have a nice theme in mind.

    GMT is a side-effect of the WordPress site. All the sites operate on GMT. Once I moved to a hosted service I’ll be free to use EST.

    Again, thanks for chiming in!


  4. […] It’s So Important To Keep Talent In Ohio « Cincinnati IT – an andy erickson blog […]

  5. Great post. I won’t focus on the education aspect. As you said, local colleges seem to be turning out great kids, they just don’t stay in town. As far as keeping talent, I think a lot of this has to do with non-technology things, like revitalizing downtown, public transit, etc.

    But I think what Cincinnati needs is a Youtube, or Facebook to come out of Cincinnati. That’s where college graduates want to go to work. I don’t know too many early 20-somethings concerned with the local tax rate. They go where the cool and sexy companies are. P&G may be a behemoth, but it is not sexy.

    BTW, $200?! Is that for dedicated? If you can live with shared hosting, Dreamhost has the best deals with full shell access. I use it for all my personal and family sites.

    Regular prices are between $6 and $10/month depending on how far in advance you pay. They’re running a promo right now where prices are between $3 and $5/month. (

    If you sign up, be sure to use my email address as a referral. Then I’ll get some credits. Or you can use this link:

    Ok, sales pitch over 🙂

  6. Gerard, the $200 is $8/month hosting annualized at about $100 + a $100 theme that I would like to purchase. Annualized is how my wife will look at it 🙂


  7. There’s no shame in adding a PayPal account link so that people who like your blog can lend a hand in helping you get the funds you need to make it better. I know you wife will take the cost out of your lunch money. 🙂

  8. Jeff, you’re killin’ me. If you sat two seats down from me I’d come over there and…wait…you do sit two seats down from me…

  9. Great facts and #’s to support the simple fact that our ‘knowledge economy’ is of great importance, and building/inspiring Cincinnati’s ‘talent supply’ is of great importance. There are tons of non-profits, programs the Mayor has implemented, and organizations such as Cincinnati USA that are taking action to inspire commerce, grow businesses, and develop our youth. The economy currently doesn’t help out our situation too much, but if we don’t continue to pour into our communities, inspire ideas, and utilize our creative potential, we will continue to falter. We do have the capabilities, with great schools such as UC, XU (you forgot to mention, ha), NKU, and Miami (not to take from the smaller institutions).

    We have great companies such as GE, P&G, Kroger, Macy’s, Chiquita, 5/3, and places that ventured here due to these power houses such as LPK, Interbrand, Dunnhumby, and many others. We need to grow the technology side, utilize our resources better, team with educational institutions better, and surpass our potential. We’ve been stagnant too long. The good thing is that people are taking action to make Cincy better. Organizations such as Soapbox Media, Cincinnati USA, 3CDC, and many others are trying to energize growth and creativity.

    While in career transition and recently earning my MBA, I can’t help but to agree with your perspectives. The opportunities for my focus (Marketing/Brand/PR) made it very easy to target companies due to the lack of choice. One has the obvious, P&G, not the easiest place to venture into, then Kao Brands, Kroger, (and others mentioned such as Dunnhumby, or a Nielsen/Empower) GE – transition internally, but the Marketing/Communications opps aren’t that abundant). One can exhaust their network and target companies quickly here, but there are great opps. I would like to see them grow! Will be challenging while many are ‘leaning up’ during this economy. I may be in a coastal (LA) town soon! The good thing, which I like to emphasize during any challenge, are the ‘lessons learned’.

    From making connections/networking, I have been able to learn a lot about our city, companies, myself, and even be a catalyst for others development/searches. We simply need to energize our job market, invest in education better, and create better opportunities. We have ‘the Arts’ and great options with the CAC, Cincinnati Art and Museum Centers, Reds, Bengals, Freedom Center, Art Academy, and many events, but if the “Pig Marathon/Skyline/Graeters” is what we’re known for (nothing wrong with any of these places/events, love them…) we need to improve our image + businesses + communities! We’re more than that, we know it, but it seems we’ve become solely a P&G and losing Bengals team town. I like to think we’re more than that, and know we are!

    There are tons of people passionate about our city, and inspiring change. They’re even taking action on it! Be more than happy to share some examples soon. If you have ideas for improving our City, businesses, and communities = feel free to share, I can amplify your voice for you!

    We need to change, and grow our river town with a “Cincinnati Renaissance”! All great cities thrive on good education, technology, transportation, community involvement, security, and business opportunities. I would like to hear more from others interested in improving our city in these areas. They’re out there, not to gather them together, and inspire others.

    Great subject(s), later, B

  10. […] Keeping Talent in Ohio – If you don’t live in Ohio you can pass on this one. […]

  11. […] Reports on homeshoring cover the networks of customer service representatives who work in their U.S. based homes for corporate titans like 1-800-FLOWERS, JetBlue, and Office Depot. But let’s not forget the 20+ million freelancers who are working wherever they can find free Wi-Fi access. They too are keeping talent local. […]

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