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Thread: "The Ruse of the Creative Class"

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    "The Ruse of the Creative Class"

    Interesting article about Richard Florida.

    In our interview, Florida shies away from making the abandonment argument as forthrightly. He tells me his Atlantic piece was the "best thing I've ever done" but backs away from it under questioning. "I'm not saying abandon these places," he says. "I'm saying, number one, invest in their assets, number two, invest in their connective fiber" to other cities. He is an advocate of building high-speed rail to link cities like Detroit, Buffalo, and Milwaukee to Chicago and Toronto. What he really opposes, he says, is propping up industries like auto manufacturing. He recognizes that expecting people to leave home for his creative hubs is "gut wrenching" and laments the "massive geographic inequality" that will result.

    But that is not what he has been arguing in his writing, which has very forcefully made the case for redoubling the flow of talent and investment to creative centers. As he wrote in The Atlantic, "We can't stop the decline of some places." That does not sound like a call for a multibillion-dollar rail project in Michigan. ...

    After the Atlantic cover story appeared, Florida was a guest on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation. Tessa from Detroit called in: "My neighborhood is really disappearing," she says. "I would love to hear some comments from your guest about what's going to happen to my neighborhood. What are his predictions? ... Do we get out? Do we stay?"

    Florida assured Tessa that Detroit's plight "is not something I'm particularly happy about." He told her his wife is from Detroit. And then he told her that his friends who live in Detroit are making it as "freelancers" who "commute on an irregular basis" to work on projects somewhere else. He had recently given a speech to Detroit airport officials, who told him that the airport would remain viable. "That airport provides connective fiber," he told her. "Finding local employment is going to be a lot harder. So you either have to say, can I commute to work, by plane perhaps, or do I have to look for a place that has a better set of opportunities for me?"

    There was no way to know if the answer was satisfactory: Tessa from Detroit was off the air.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Look, a man's gotta make a livin'!

    The Kotkins, Breugmanns, Floridas, Duanys of the world are all selling an idea that is branded to sell to consumers who want to buy. They all have names for their brand, and we all know those names. None of this should be surprising.

    I'm not sure I'd call it a 'ruse', but I can understand how someone with a brand to sell would call it that to sell copy and to strengthen their brand so people will consume it. Since the article in the OP is two years old, I'm not sure the strength of the Prospect's brand has broad consumer reach to influence society.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Catering to the creative class is just like any other economic strategy. You need to create a centre-of-gravity that will attract employers to you and away from other cities. The bigger the centre-of-gravity the more people and business you will attract. While the creative class is growing it’s still a competition for a limited resource and therefore if lots of cities are competing for new creative class jobs to move in only a few will be successful. The rest will fail because those types of businesses all like to be located in close proximity to each other (just like manufacturing businesses or tourist businesses). Whichever city gets the most traction will attract most of the businesses leaving just a few scraps for the rest. Therefore if you are a city considering this strategy you have to go whole hog or don’t bother.

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    My city jumped on the Florida bandwagon to a limited degree some years back. I was always a little skeptical of the "if you build it they will come" approach. Florida is an interesting author whose economic analyses I always found to be a little soft around the edges. For example, I think there is a difference between recognizing an economic pattern (of, say, creative types gravcitating toward a particular type of city) and actually trying to manufacture that same dynamic more explicitly in a directed and conscious manner. I'm not convinced that its that easy nor that his assessments of creative centers was exhaustive enough to identify all the important factors that drive people to a particular place. Did people come to a particular place because of certain amenities, for example, or are those amenities there because of the people who came?

    Our city scored very high on Florida's index, but not much has really changed in the last 15 years here as far as development of entrepreneurial/creative activities or industries.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Wahday, how does this index of Mr Florida's work?

    As an 'applied' economsit, I too find Florida's data quality vs. conclusions dubious but I guess his importance has been in popularizing the idea that in a largely tertiary economy the obsession with attracting "a big factory" to your town as the only way to grow might be misguided.
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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Not surprised, never liked this guy. Thought he was pompous.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    I'm not convinced that its that easy nor that his assessments of creative centers was exhaustive enough to identify all the important factors that drive people to a particular place. Did people come to a particular place because of certain amenities, for example, or are those amenities there because of the people who came?

    .
    +1...this is exactly why I think Mr. Flo-rida research is off the mark. One thing I will give him credit for is his research has resulted in more discussion to the value of human capital in economic development; something that most urban economists etc have not paid much attention to as an economic driver.
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    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    +1...this is exactly why I think Mr. Flo-rida research is off the mark. One thing I will give him credit for is his research has resulted in more discussion to the value of human capital in economic development; something that most urban economists etc have not paid much attention to as an economic driver.
    I am fully on-board with you in this regard. While Florida has certainly not sufficiently IDed all of the factors that drive people to make location decisions, he is important in that he was among the first to popularize the notion that economic development was about more than hitting homeruns to attract factories and whoring yourself out with tax incentives--that businesses, particularly knowledge-based businesses, were placing more emphasis on where people wanted to be.
    Last edited by Suburb Repairman; 05 Jan 2012 at 3:35 PM.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    Wahday, how does this index of Mr Florida's work?
    There is more info in his book and probably on his website. This is from Wikipedia:

    The “Creativity Index” is another tool that Florida uses to describe how members of the Creative Class are attracted to a city. The Creativity Index includes four elements: “the Creative Class share of the workforce; innovation, measured as patents per capita; high tech industry, using the Milken Institute's widely accepted Tech Pole Index…; and diversity, measured by the Gay Index, a reasonable proxy for an area’s openness" (2002, pp. 244–5). Using this index, Florida rates and ranks cities in terms of innovative high-tech centers, with San Francisco being the highest ranked (2002).
    The implication is that cities that score high in certain areas but not in others might pour more resources into the weaker arenas to make their city more attractive to the Creative Class (who will presumeably settle there and make life better). I suppose these elements are also what keep people around in a particular area as well. He calls this "lateral movement" - people moving from one related type of job to another - which is a strong characteristic of the Creative Class. They do not tend to stay at jobs for long (3-5 years) but tend to jump to similar work, even for no pay increase, to stay interested and stimulated. A city that has many related industries (like tech companies) allows these people to stay in one city but enjoy that diversity of work options. Or so Richard says...

    I agree with Brocktoon's comment that Florida has elevated the value assigned to aspects of human capital, social networks, cultural assets and the like - things that have not historically been considered important economic measurements.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    A good critique

    Thought provoking. Makes that point that good governance, services and reasonable tax rates do more.

    http://www.city-journal.org/2011/21_...velopment.html

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Florida says what he is against is propping up auto manufacturing. I agree if "propping up" means the type of protectionism and unsound investment that was characteristic of import-substitution industrialization in South America. BUT, a bigger question I'd like to ask is why America associates manufacturing with decline?

    I suspect allure of Florida's theory is that it appeals to a sense of what is fashionable - coastal cities and "creative" industries (even if many of these jobs are similar to what one sees in "Dilbert.") And let's face it, in the U.S. the blue collar is decidedly unfashionable. And the U.S. has for decades refused to adopt a manufacturing policy.

    Why is this the situation? In Japan, despite the coverage of various troubles, the Nagoya-Toyota city area is a thriving, good place to live, with modern commuter rail that reaches 60 mph, and working for Toyota or Nissan is considered a great and creative career for an engineer. In Sweden and Germany, industry continues to play an important role. In Canada, where unionization rates are high and public health care means that companies and unions need not cover these expenses for workers and retirees, the industrial sector is strong. In second-tier creative Portland, shipping and a new industry - building streetcars - is still important. Yet too often American - especially midwestern rustbelt cities - industry has a moribund image. Why wouldn't industry be considered an asset that can be retooled for the modern era? Will the new electric and smart cars of the future be built in the midwest, or elsewhere? After all, I can't think of anything much more creative than designing new products ...

    I don't believe manufacturing will have the presence that it once did when semi-skilled line jobs were prevalent, but re-inventing this as one of the midwest's key sectors seems a wise move if it is possible and if the momentum hasn't shifted elsewhere already.

    Of course, I believe many of the quality of life amenities that appeal to the creative class - the basics of good diverse housing, good schools and clean air; the amenities of open space, parks, and recreation; vibrant culture and urban districts; and quality public transit - should all be relevant to attracting modern manufacturing too.

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