Amazingly, active interest in building and exploiting these extended networks is very recent.
My personal views are somewhat mixed in that all levels of engagement need to be fostered, not just with people who left but with all kinds of other people.
It seems like most Rust Belt cities are in a learning curve, moving from Border Guard Bob type efforts to get everyone to stay, to reluctant efforts to get people to comeback to their hometown.
The best ones, acknowledge the natural movement of people while keeping them in touch and involved.
Jacobs acknowledges that networking opportunities and tangible engagement, not just economic redevelopment prospects, should be an important focus for diaspora groups. For people who hope to one day return to their hometowns, social networking is essential in order to replace lost groups of hometown friends who have also left the area. Detroit Nation often organizes road trips back to Detroit where members can socialize with each other, in addition to connecting with Detroit business leaders and experience innovation initiatives first hand.
Detroit Nation isn't the only expat group whose members currently call New York City home. Manhattanite Frits Abell founded the Buffalo Expat Network at the beginning of 2010, after 20 years in NYC. Buffalo Expat Network started out as a Facebook group but has since become an active expat network, connecting former Buffalo residents from all over the world in order to harness talent for Buffalo-based initiatives. Unlike Detroit Nation, Buffalo Expat Network engages their membership more through online communities, although in-person events have been held in New York City. "At the beginning of this year, we decided to focus much more on projects, so we have different expats leading different projects," he says.
IMHO, there needs to be a much broader interest in information and people flow all around. People in Ann Arbor should know Detroit better; folks in Columbus should know Pittsburgh and Cleveland and Indianapolis. It's like looking at a menu and just knowing what's available.
The article does point out that New York City itself benefits from a vast diaspora network.