Returning 'home' more than matter of local
Nobody at the Nebraska Department of Economic
Development is reading Thomas Wolfe these days.
Wolfe wrote the novel "You Can't Go Home
The state eco devo crowd begs to differ.
Instead, they are making the case to Nebraska
expatriates that the best place to live, work and raise a
family is a ZIP Code starting with 68 or 69 -- home as we
call it in these parts. ("These parts" is an accepted
geographical reference in these parts.)
The recruiters are serious, too. They have teamed
with alumni associations from state colleges and universities.
They are working with MoveBackToNebraska.com, a Web site devoted
to convincing talented natives that there is more to life
than oceans, mountains and subways. They are attempting to
reverse the brain drain.
Take that, Wolfy.
MoveBackToNebraska.com has gone as far as posting
job openings and business opportunities on its site. MBTN
also has a "Community Wish List," where a town can
identify a specific type of business it would like to see
grace its Main Street or anchor its industrial park.
Sales pitches designed to bring home Nebraskans
usually are part economic opportunity and part Hallmark card,
tugging at that part of us that equates the state with simple,
sentimental goodness and family.
Bring back best
While the official push to bring 'em back is
in its early stages, many "formers" are already
"once agains," including yours truly. And we did
it without the help of Web sites or offices of economic development.
That is not a knock on the state or MBTN, only
a matter of record. Quite to the contrary, I think any effort
intended to bring back our best and brightest is money and
No need to go parochial either. I suppose non-Nebraskans
could use the MBTN Web site to see what opportunities are
available west of the Missouri and east of Cheyenne. If we
cast a wide net for capable Nebraskans and happen to catch
an exceptional engineer from Indiana or a gifted teacher from
Texas, we're better for it.
My experience as a returning native adds another
dimension, however -- one the Nebraska Department of Economic
Development obviously recognizes. Those who return home to
live often do so because young people usually fly first and
put down roots later.
And if you're planting in a familiar field,
the soil can deepen roots. Returnees will probably stay returned.
My wife (also a native) and I lived in Los Angeles
for 10 years, a period of time that allowed us to experience
ZIP Codes and lifestyles vastly different than any we had
known. Our California experience was exhilarating, educational
We went to California primarily because of economics;
we came home because of Hallmark: Family connections and a
simplified life had taken on more importance. We were tired
of spending time in our vehicles. We traded earthquakes for
tornadoes and Sig Alerts for four seasons, two of which can
Others may have come back to Nebraska because
of work. Still others are here perhaps because of a combination
of the two.
We have stayed, too, avoiding an apparent and
continued out-migration that the eco devos worry about --
as well they should.
One hint for recruiters: When we eventually
looked for work, we were both told on a number of occasions
that we were "over-qualified." We chalked this up
to salary considerations rather than a tribute to our talent.
Still, the attitude is not economic development;
it is poor economic self-esteem.
Not that I qualify, but why shouldn't Nebraska
have the top engineers, doctors, bankers, entrepreneurs, financial
advisers and workers of every stripe? What does it tell you
about a state when it determines that someone is too "qualified"
Talented and creative professionals, community
leaders and standup citizens fill every corner of the state.
Go with that.
Bravo to the Nebraska Department of Economic
Development for recognizing that -- even though Thomas Wolfe
may have written a great book and regardless of whether it's
the head or the heart that gets you there -- you can go home
George Ayoub is senior writer at The Independent.
His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog,
"A Shoe on the Freeway," at www.theindependent.com/george.