I had lunch with Tom Baker, an acquaintance through Clancy’s work. He is a businessman with a track record of success who, like me, moved here for his wife’s job. He’s looking to start a software business and was wondering what my level of interest would be (and how I might be able to contribute). Along the way, he commented that he had hoped to make this new business an Arapaho institution to provide local jobs and bring money into the local economy, but he discovered that the IT-sector in Arapaho is virtually non-existent. Worse yet, the state university system is mostly uninterested in having strong computer science programs. And, of course, Callie is a small town and the nearest “city”, Redstone, is a rusty sort of town that educated people are typically interested in leaving. As such, if this business takes off and expands, he will most likely have to contract out the software development to a region that has IT people or, if he’s going to contract out anyway, to India. Now, some of this is merely a product of our specific location within the state, but even before this conversation I found it interested the comparative disinterest in technology compared to Delosa and even Deseret.

On the other hand, to some extent I suppose it makes sense. If there’s not an industry to support the jobs, the result is that you end up educating people who end up leaving and contributing to the economies of other states. Delosa and Colosse have been great beneficiaries of this. Delosa has a number of really good computer science programs and engineering programs, but a lot of talent is imported from neighboring states without the jobs to support their graduates. Muscogea State University, in the state north of Delosa, is a particularly good example of this. They have excellent computer science and engineering programs and upon graduation most of them seem to immediately move to Colosse. The Musco State Wildcats have almost as big a following in Colosse as the Delosa Panthers. At some point, the legislators in Muscogea have to be asking what the point is of spending all of this money educating people when they’re just going to move away. On the other hand, if they don’t supply graduates, if virtually assures that aspiring IT companies are going to pop up in Delosa rather than Muscogea.

Deseret has similar issues with an excess of talent. Its three largest universities have computer science programs with master’s degrees (though one of them is limited in scope) and at least one of the schools has a quite good program. Deseret also tends to turn out high school graduates that are actually reasonably education. But outside its capital city, the jobs aren’t really there and even inside the capital city they’re not easy to come by. They manage to hold on to the talent in a way that would be difficult for Arapaho because its Mormon population really doesn’t want to leave the state and will take low-paying jobs to stay in the Promised Land and near all of the family that also hasn’t moved. So Deseret has a stickiness that Arapaho and Muscogea lack.

If the business takes off (these things are always an uphill climb, but Tom has a pretty strong track record), it is not inconceivable that it could open up an office in Mocum, where I worked in Deseret and where I know there are a lot of tech-savvy people that are underemployed, and be only a two or three hour drive from operations. I suspect that India would make more sense. Or the West Coast.

Outside the world of IT, there is actually a similar operation. A national breadmaking operation has its corporate headquarters in Callie but neither makes nor (directly) sells bread here. Unlike with a software company, I don’t now entirely why that is as the process of breadmaking does not seem to require particularly specialized labor. I suppose they don’t make it here because of the lack of wheat fields (though I’m not sure why the land can’t be used for wheat. There’s a similar climate in Deseret and a cereal company had a major wheat-harvesting operation there. Not that this has anything to do with the main post, but I found it interesting regardless.

Category: Market

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2 Responses to Cultivating & Exporting Talent

  1. Kirk says:

    I’m not even sure why Florida has an educational system. The only industry anyone seems to care about here is tourism, and that doesn’t require anything but basic math and reading skills, the type of stuff you learn by ninth grade.

  2. trumwill says:

    Until relatively recently, Florida’s university system was known for being particularly shoddy for a state of Florida’s size and wealth. The only other large states with struggling universities (or without an impressive flagship) are ones in the rust belt. But Florida has been making some real strides with UFlorida, South Florida, UCF, and even Florida International gaining more impressive reputations.

    There was an interesting discussion a while back on The Atlantic’s website on why Texas seems to be doing so much better than Florida during this recession despite the fact that they’re both generally low-tax, pro-business states with high levels of immigration. Ultimately, it came down to Florida’s real estate bubble that Texas avoided and precisely what you say… Florida’s bread and butter is the tourism industry, which is particularly vulnerable to recessions.

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