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Stemming the brain drain

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However, some say the state is slowly making progress toward becoming a more appealing work location.,”

Wisconsin has long suffered from brain drain, when young professionals leave the state for higher-paying jobs.

However, some say the state is slowly making progress toward becoming a more appealing work location.

Wisconsin lost 18,445 people ages 20 to 29 in 2000, according to a report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, resulting in a 2.6 percent net loss.

Ryan Parsons, a research assistant at the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, said there aren't enough white-collar jobs for college graduates in Wisconsin and Milwaukee.

"The city's really struggling because for so long it's been an industry town resting on manufacturing jobs," Parsons said.

Milwaukee also doesn't attract entrepreneurial jobs that require college educations, said William Hunter, associate professor of finance.

He said due to tuition reciprocity, it's cheaper for many students, especially Minnesotans, to attend college in Wisconsin versus their home state.

Yet at graduation, there aren't enough white-collar jobs.

"We need to develop an environment that's much more friendly to start-up businesses," Hunter said.

James McGibany, associate professor of economics, said there is a lack of major headquarters in Wisconsin. If someone is hired by a large firm, it will be in another area, he said.

Parsons said Wisconsin loses graduates to Minneapolis and Chicago, where there are more high-tech jobs and cultural appeal.

McGibany said the culture in Milwaukee isn't as strong as it is in other cities.

He also said for college graduates who want to be in a "hot city," it is expensive to live downtown.

"Property taxes really take a bite out of your income," McGibany said.

Still, Milwaukee is growing culturally, said Mark Eppli, professor of finance. He said with Milwaukee's sports teams, Water Street and the Third Ward, Milwaukee is making slow inroads so people can work, live and play.

Dean Amhaus, president of Spirit of Milwaukee Inc., a group dedicated to increasing cultural understanding in the city, also said Milwaukee is developing a buzz.

He said it's a terrific place to raise a family. In fact, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance reported a 17,928-person gain in 30- to 49-year-olds.

Amhaus referred to college graduates who leave as boomerangs because many end up returning.

"Someone who's young and wants to live in a big city or in Florida, we can't stop," Amhaus said.

He said Milwaukee needs to do a better job of putting individuals in management positions and integrating minorities into these positions.

Milwaukee should develop and expand to get more blacks and Hispanics to come and stay, Amhaus said.

Whereas 907,790 whites were employed in Wisconsin in 2005, only 54,978 blacks and 47,211 Hispanics were employed, according to statistics produced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"We want to be able to attract and keep talent here," Amhaus said. "It's a long process, a complicated process, with no one particular fix."

Where Have All The Graduates Gone?

  • Wisconsin lost 18,445 20- to 29-year-olds in 2000, resulting in a 2.6 percent net loss.
  • Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, Florida and California are the main recipients of Wisconsin graduates.
  • Higher-paying jobs and a more appealing lifestyle are major attractors.
  • Wisconsin gained 17,928 adults ages 30 to 49 in 2000.
  • Many adults move back to the area to raise families.
  • In 2005, Wisconsin employed 907,790 whites, 54,978 blacks and 47,211 Hispanics.

Sources: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Web site and the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance Web site.

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