Economy needs new grads back

From the The Brunswick News

When Elizabeth Teston graduated from the University of Georgia two years ago, she was faced with finding a job in an unfavorable market.

The Brunswick High School graduate's first instinct was to head to Atlanta, where she expected to find more opportunities than in her hometown.

Teston's attitude at the time of heading to the big city is one that smaller cities around the country are hoping to reverse.

As students graduate from college after leaving home, communities often experience a phenomenon known as "brain drain" when they do not return.

The drain has become enough of an issue in Maine that the state legislature passed a law this year offering a tax incentive of up to $40,000 to graduates who stay in the state to work.

Teston did not need an incentive to stay in state and wound up deciding her hometown was the best place to be.

"I was thinking about going to Atlanta to sell insurance, but when you want to get into the insurance industry, it helps to be in a place where you know people," she said.

She realized coming home was her best choice during an interview that resulted in a job offer in Atlanta.

"I was asked what I liked to do in my free time and I said I liked to fish, go to the beach and enjoy the outdoors," Teston, 24, said. "(The employer) said, 'You do realize Atlanta is landlocked, right?'"

Teston came home and sold insurance for a short time in Brunswick before finding a job as credit manager at King and Prince Seafood, a good move for her, she said.

"Honestly, it just made sense to come home," Teston said. "I am happy to be around my family and to be working for such a great corporation."

Having a base of strong companies in need of educated and skilled employees is the first step to preventing the loss of intellectual capital in a community, according to Nathan Sparks, director of the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority.

"(Brain drain) is something that is on our minds," Sparks said. "The more success we have in seeing our local economy grow, the more we will be able to bring people back to the community."

Thinking outside the box of traditional industry may offer Glynn County an avenue to attract a more modern type of entrepreneur, who Sparks calls the mobile professional.

Mobile professionals are people such as consultants or independent contractors who can work anywhere and do not necessarily need an office and a staff. Sparks says they generally are well-educated, have high incomes and seek out areas with a good quality of life.

They also tend to be active members of the community, Sparks added.

But perhaps the biggest boon to preventing brain drain will be recent additions to the educational offerings in Glynn County, he said.

"We want the brain drain pendulum to swing in our favor," Sparks said. "We now, as a community, are better equipped to attract people back."

College of Coastal Georgia has graduated two baccalaureate classes since becoming a four-year institution. The college plans to begin tracking students as they enter the work force as more complete their education, according to John Cornell, spokesman for the college.

"It's an exciting opportunity for us and the community to not only keep our best students here, but also to import others," Cornell said.

Students are building networks in Glynn County that will hopefully pay off in jobs when they graduate, Cornell said. Helping them accomplish that are the service learning program at the college, which puts students in position to be active members of the community through volunteer opportunities and the college's internship programs.

"We do expect some of them will stick around," Cornell said.

Altamaha Technical College is another recent addition, having expanded its reach to Glynn County.

It is operating out of the Golden Isles Career Academy while waiting for state funding to build its own campus.

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Release Date: 9/24/2012
Source: The Brunswick News

By MICHAEL HALL