Monday, December 18, 2000

Ohio follows Midwest pattern: Workers needed

States seek to fight 'brain drain'

By Genaro C. Armas
The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — Across the Midwest and into the mid-Atlantic, states are trying to plug holes in their labor pools.

        Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack is pursuing an aggressive campaign to recruit new immigrants to fill jobs left vacant, in part, by retirees. Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the states trying to combat the “brain drain,” the departure of highly educated students for more attractive jobs in other states.

        In an economy with low unemployment, workers are hot commodities.

        “We need more workers. We need all levels of jobs, and levels of people within those jobs,” said Harold Bowman, a project coordinator for Mr. Vilsack's Iowa 2010 plan, which seeks an additional 310,000 workers by the end of the decade.

        New workers are especially welcome across America's heartland and into Pennsylvania, where growth forecasts of the working age population — people ages 16 to 64 — are lower than fast-growing states in the West.

        Among the findings of a report that reviewed the latest Census Bureau population estimates from 1999 and projections for 2015:

        • West Virginia (1 percent) and Michigan (less than 1 percent) are the only two states where the working age population is estimated to drop.

        • Iowa's working age population is forecast to rise by 3 percent.

        • Western states are projected as having the greatest gains, led by New Mexico (29 percent) and Hawaii (27 percent). Arizona, Nevada and California also are expected to show increases of 20 percent or more.

        This growth comes from increased immigration and shifts of people who leave one state for another, said John Haaga, an analyst at the Population Reference Bureau, the nonprofit research group studying population trends.

        Generally older populations reaching retirement age and more mobile workers in their 20s and 30s are slowing growth rates in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest, he said.

        “Those states are not getting particularly large shares of immigrants, and they've been losing domestic migrants. People are most likely to leave in their 20s, and settle down around age 35,” Mr. Haaga said.

        When Dan Sadosky, 34, left Toledo, Ohio, in 1989, he likened his hometown's economy to a “sinking ship.”

        His outlook has changed since returning to the Toledo area in 1996 after attending college in Columbus.

        He opened a software development company and has joined other businesses in trying to keep well educated students from leaving.

        “When I moved back and I brought the business with me, much of the support and infrastructure I found in other towns I did not find here,” Mr. Sadosky said.

        As part of the area's “Foundation for the Future” program, Mr. Sadosky and others try to retain students through internships and other efforts.

        Similar steps are under way in other states.


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