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March 24, 2008

« Who's Your (Academic) City? | Main | Who's Your Chi-Pitts? »

The New York Times reports (h/t: Alison Kemper):

New York officials have long taken pride in the city’s status as a global gateway. But lately, senior executives of some of the country’s biggest corporations, like Alcoa, have been complaining that American immigration policies are thwarting New York’s ability to compete with other world capitals.

Every big employer in the city, it seems, can cite an example of high-paying jobs that had to be relocated to foreign cities because the people chosen to fill them could not gain entry to the United States.

In Alcoa’s case, one of its chief financial executives, Vanessa Lau, who is from Hong Kong, is working from the company’s offices in Geneva when she should be at headquarters on Park Avenue, according to Alain J. P. Belda, the chairman and chief executive. ... “In a company like ours, we have people moving all over the place all the time,” Mr. Belda said. “This visa situation is causing difficulty.” ...

“New York’s ability to compete with London, which has much more open immigration, or with the emerging financial capitals in Asia and the Middle East, depends on mobility of talent, both in terms of new and current employees,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the [Partnership for New York]. “What people miss is, New York’s standing as an international capital of business and finance depends on the professionals within these companies being able to come to New York to be trained and groomed for leadership positions around the world.” ...

“The whole visa situation was one of the biggest reasons that I took the job,” Mr. Gaur said in a telephone interview from London, where he is a senior project manager for the British bank. “I didn’t want to keep going through this uncertainty — it’s just a nightmare.”

Wasn't Alcoa once a Pittsburgh companny? And didn't somebody once write a book about this, while Times columnists were out extolling the virtues of the wondeful, interconnected, flat world. Hmmmmmm ....


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Gary Dare

I'm listening to CBC's "Cross-Country Check-up" with Rex Murphy, live from Halifax with a discussion on trades (and lack of young Canadians going into them versus university). One repatriate to Nova Scotia, who lived in Manitoba for a few years, said that while trades are tactile and require physical presence, knowledge is portable.

Being in high tech, I've had a front row seat on the growth of jobs in the developing world for over a decade (first time was faxing a 20 page presentation to India and then speaking to it over an overseas landline) and while the emphasis has been cost, that is transitioning to labor availability. That has tipped in favor of people repatriating to (e.g.) India and China rather than enduring the immigration process of the US, UK and Canada. Even if the US reversed course and tried to open up its process more (like Canada and the UK are trying to do, but are hesitant), you just can't get enough people through a managed system. The old days of the company locating where the CEO wants to live, has passed on ...

While a third of our farewell lunches are still for people retiring or taking new jobs elsewhere (in company or out), the other two thirds are for repats. I'm in the office today to pack up two old computers from a couple of Indian returnees (one MSCS from U of WA, the other BSEE Wisconsin and MBA Northwestern, on the PDX-FRA Lufthansa flight 3/31) to be sent this summer to the mini-lab that I'm setting up in Toronto upon my return. (Why today? Building services is reconfiguring their two offices for three junior accountants, including knocking down a wall, electrical and painting. Sarbox is creating jobs, at least!)

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