Tonight marks the biggest game of the NBA season so far. Admittedly, I am not a huge NBA fan, but I do enjoy the drama of certain games and this one has it all. LeBron, returning home to Cleveland, after fleeing the city of his youth. Cleveland, a hard scrabble rust-belt town, came so close to finally securing a championship for their beleaguered city with LeBron, but he succumbed to the temptation that so many youth fall to and left for his big career (read: championship) opportunity and bright lights (and warm temperatures) of South Beach.
In Vermont we often use the term “brain drain” to emphasize the flight of our youth in their post-college years. It is a real challenge, yet also nothing new. The lure of a better life in the urban centers has always plagued Vermont farmers, businesses, and their families. I can offer no guarantees that it will ever cease either. This issue is certainly not unique to Vermont.
When traveling in the south earlier this year, I caught a CNN special on the efforts of Montgomery, Alabama to keep it’s youth home and stimulate the local professional and creative scene. Many of their efforts resembled what is taking place here in Vermont with several “Young Professionals” networking clubs, pub crawls and employment incentives. It seems even some of the big cities are losing their youth to some indistinct destination.
When considering the future of the Vermont Family Business Initiative, I cannot ignore the role that family businesses can play helping to draw those “youth” back home. I can name several Vermont businesses where the son or daughter of the owner has returned after several years of exploring their professional options to realize that their family business was indeed the best opportunity of all. Furthermore, as we continue to grow our network of business owners, building connections between graduating UVM students and local businesses may help out of state students gain critical external business experience before they too, return home.
As you watch the game tonight, remember LeBron is only 26 years old. Despite his money and success already, he too is an early stage professional exploring his career opportunities. In one interview, he even hinted of his desire to one day return home as well, if his city will accept The King once again. Tonight, however, I’m rooting for the locally owned business.