05 November 2007

Beyond Bizlex: Global Mindset, Local Address

My most recent Business Lexington column features Jonathan Gitlin and Elle Cayabyab Gitlin.

My column's official/unofficial title has always been "Living Locally, Working Globally" since that's what I do from the Bluegrass. For a while now I wanted to write a profile of people who were in the same situation. Once I met Jonathan and Elle, I knew they'd be great for such a piece.

Jonathan and Elle both have full-time gigs - Jonathan as a post-doc in Pharmacy at the University of Kentucky, Elle as an entrepreneur and instructional designer. They also contribute to one of the most authoritative science and technology blogs on the planet (and currently the #7 blog at Technorati), Ars Technica. Some of Elle's contributions are here and Jonathan's are here.

Initially I thought the column would just be a quaint little piece that featured a genuinely smart and charming couple. But as I read their answers to my questions, I started thinking about what communities can do to attract well-educated talent from across the globe and build knowledge-based economies. I know dozens of economists and planners have already written far more sophisticated analyses of this, but Elle and Jonathan seem to be describing a few key building blocks to really set a community apart. While the University clearly serves as the anchor - it brought Jonathan and Elle here, after all - it also helps to have a relatively low cost of living while maintaining a decent quality of life, broadband internet access, and an airport nearby.

Elle and Jonathan chose to answer my questions jointly - I thought that was pretty neat. Here's the extended Q&A.
How did you meet?

We met, as many couples do, through the workplace. Of course, Jonathan lived in San Diego at the time, and Elle was currently in Chattanooga, but that didn't stop our coworkers from throwing us together--virtually, of course.

What do you do for a living?

Jonathan is a postdoc at UK's College of Pharmacy, where he does research on heart disease. Elle is an independent consultant specializing in corporate training and information development.

Why did you choose Lexington?

An excellent opportunity for Jonathan's career presented itself at UK, and so we moved here in 2004. The location, cost of living, and proximity to several major cities made the move an attractive proposition, and we've enjoyed our time here so far.

What do you do for fun?

We're avid motorsport fans, and so we combine that with our love of travel to go to races around the world. We love to read and watch movies, so we're often at the Kentucky Theater or the Movie Tavern with friends. Elle is also a co-host of Lexington's Drinking Liberally chapter, which meets on a bimonthly basis.

How "global" is the city? How many of your friends here are lifelong Kentuckians or Lexingtonians?

We've been pleasantly surprised at the diversity we've found here in Lexington. If we count ourselves, here in our neighborhood there are immigrants from Brazil, the Philippines, Ireland, and the UK. Within our greater circle of local friends, there are both Kentucky natives and out-of-state transplants which makes for an interesting mix of life experiences and stories.

How global is your work? What do you like about your jobs?

As Elle is an independent consultant, she has clients all across North America. Jonathan is expanding his science writing career, and he hopes to make the move into full-time medical and scientific communications in the near future, which will give us the added flexibility of being able to live and work anywhere there is an Internet connection and cell phone reception.

Do you have to travel often, or does technology keep you grounded? Would you like to travel more?

Elle is fortunate enough to have excellent relationships with her clients, and so she's able to keep travel to a minimum, preferring instead to keep in touch via telephone and e-mail. Most of our traveling is done purely for pleasure.

How did you get involved with Ars Technica?

We started out as readers, but we each offered up our services--Jonathan as a science journalist and Elle as a technology writer and copy editor--on a volunteer basis and have been fortunate enough to parlay it into paid freelance positions with Ars.

What do you enjoy most about your work there?

It's very accommodating of our schedules, and our work is seen by a global audience. Jonathan's articles have been cited in a number of major news outlets and science publications, and our colleagues keep us up to date with the latest news in technology and science.

What can Lexington do to be more accommodating and attract a global audience?

The increased mix of urban and suburban real estate gives those looking to move to Lexington their choice of lifestyles, while the cultural opportunities provided by the local universities and arts organizations give worldly residents a wide variety of entertainment choices. The expansion of the Lexington airport is a welcome addition, and hopefully it will make traveling to Central Kentucky that much easier.

Lexington is talking a lot about the World Equestrian Games as
their "world stage." Are you looking forward to the Games?

The Games will bring a much-needed boost to Central Kentucky. There are some major opportunities there for local businesses and volunteers, and we're pleased at the opportunity for our family and friends to see Kentucky on the global stage.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I know those guys!

Nice Q&A. It was pretty neat to see some familiar names here!

David said...

Thanks Alison!

with baby said...

Thanks for the article. Question though, is the airport actually expanding their flight services or just their building? I have heard that all of this talk is just so a Starbucks can go in.