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The Creative Class

oulevin

Cyburbian
Messages
178
Points
7
Okay, I've heard debate back and forth about this. What do you all think about Richard Florida's book, The Rise of the Creative Class? Some academics have questioned its methodology, grouping, and central message. City leaders deficient in members of this "creative class" dismiss the notion that these workers mean more to the city/regional economy.

I seem to agree with its message, but the solution proffered is a formidable one. The cities where these workers (the artists, engineers, architects, researchers, writers, designers of all sorts, web developers and other IT personnel) thrive are the ones that will succeed in the future. Florida argues that cities' reliance on financial incentives (giveaways) and sports teams is misguided; that the future tigers of the economy will be the ones that cultivate a certain quality of life that attracts these workers. By quality of life, he means artistic and recreational opportunities and open-minded residents and employers. The companies will locate where the talent is.

While agree with him about the importance of quality of life, using it as an economic development tool can be tricky. How can cities develop that "quality of life" when the interests of these workers are likely to be scattered? Still, the easy, go-for-broke chasing of plants and other large scale employers does seem misguided. These jobs, if they do happen, either pay low wages, don't necessarily build human capital and innovation, and are recession- and cycle-sensitive. What do you all think?
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,078
Points
33
Many state, regional, and local economic development strategies have turned their focus on "high-tech" over the past few years. For these locations to be successful, there is little doubt in my mind that Florida is correct. Place matters. I see it in myself as I search around for new opportunities. The right job also needs to be in the right place.

Still, I recognize that many different places may emphasize many different features. Jackson, Wyoming or Missoula, Montana can be successful by appealing to the outdoors crowd, while New York or Chicago may attract those who love the nightlife. Door County, Wisconsin or Traverse City, Michigan may be the choice of people wanting a rural lifestyle. There are many different choices, but any choice needs to be supported by the community through it planning, infrastructure, and civil institutions.

That all being said, should every community be focused on "high-tech?" There is only so much to go around, and is it even a good fit? Any community should do a good self-assessment to determine what its strengths are rather than what they think they want their strengths to be. A good economic development strategy is built off of that, first.
 

oulevin

Cyburbian
Messages
178
Points
7
While agree that place matters, what about major metropolitan areas that want to attract a diversified economy? Michael mentioned some pretty unique locales. But while most cities are realistic about their chances of being the next Chicago or New York, they do want to offer what they think will attract companies and talent. Cities such as Indianapolis, Charlotte, and Pittsburgh with no stereotypical culture identified with them still want to attract businesses that will carry them solidly, if not progressively, into the future. Is the solution merely in parks, a dynamic arts scene, and nightlife?

Speaking of relying on strengths, I still think cities not known for the arts ought to consider it as an economic engine. Is it possible for a city to dramatically improve its arts scene even though it is not known as an artsy town -- and use it to attract workers? After all, was Seattle always known for music? To broaden the argument, has Charlotte always been known as a banking center, or Austin a tech center? My argument is that such scenes of creativity and economy can be made; the qualities that drive those sectors don't have to be inherent in the people and locality. Or am I foolish?
 

japrovo

Member
Messages
103
Points
6
I have this vivid image from the 1990s of the honored place Kanter's World Class and Porter's Wealth of Nations held on the bookshelf of my boss at a state economic development agency. However, I'm not certain that his understanding of their work really mattered once the ideas filtered down into a generic buzz in the body politic demanding high tech firm recruitment. The scary thing will be when people start calling for tax breaks for Florida's creatives. I do think that there is a lot to learn in the relationship between human capital and economic development. However, once that has been packaged and marketed (see Florida's website http://www.creativeclass.org/ for a great how to on academic entreprenurialism) I'm very much afraid of the results.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,078
Points
33
oulevin said:
But while most cities are realistic about their chances of being the next Chicago or New York, they do want to offer what they think will attract companies and talent. Cities such as Indianapolis, Charlotte, and Pittsburgh with no stereotypical culture identified with them still want to attract businesses that will carry them solidly, if not progressively, into the future. Is the solution merely in parks, a dynamic arts scene, and nightlife?
There is certainly a lot more to a locational decision than quality of life. But it is interesting that you mentioned Indianapolis because of an article I read a couple years back on a business park in that city. In an effort to attract a high-class group of tenants, this business park was developed with a significant number of amenities such as park areas and trails. These were considered to be part of the reason for the business park's success.

The thinking behind it is simple, and at a smaller scale, what cities are trying to do. Desirable companies often prefer a 'campus' atmosphere (physically and socially), but this is often expensive, especailly for smaller firms or secondary locations. The development of the business park recognized the opportunity to provide the campus setting as a common element. The amenities - an aspect of quality of life - directly improved the success of the city in attracting these firms.
 

oulevin

Cyburbian
Messages
178
Points
7
We may be honing in on point. The serenity and recreational opportunities afforded by trails and greenspace is a huge selling point -- that's part of the reason those imfamous tech cities Seattle and Austin were so successful: they both offer lush settings and opportunities to enjoy them. Yes, Florida is right in that aspect. But what about an active nightlife and arts scene? Are they truly important?
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
Messages
1,371
Points
28
I guess I'll start by noting that Florida is a real latecomer to the discussion. Economists who are not so self-promoting, like Ray Rasker and Tom Power (Power's book Lost Landscapes and Failed Economies is the best single source on this entire discussion -- all planners should read it, although it has a rural slant) have been communicating much the same message about the connection between the quality of life and the local economy for years, as have many planners (including yours truly) who see the old economic base model as a prescription for modern colonialism rather then genuine community development.

Beyond this, what I want to contribute to what has been said, is that the connection we are emphasizing does not apply just to high tech. Attractive places like Traverse City and Bozeman are full of skilled craftspeople and artisans, people raising specialty organic crops, etc. Making your community attractive to these people is just as important as making it attractive to high tech entrepreneurs. Remember also that you have to cultivate your own local entrepreneurs, artisans, and craftspeople, building your local school system up to do so! Otherwise you end up with a serious conflict between underemployed industrial workers whose prospects are not so good (given that their high school diplomas are barely equivalent to an 8th grade education in a good suburban school system), and a group of well educated newcomers. We are experiencing some of that here right now and it isn't pretty.
 

oulevin

Cyburbian
Messages
178
Points
7
Lee, I fully agree with your assertion that cities ought to promote the entrepreneurial abilities of its craftsmen. But for restructuring regions with manufacturing or commodity-based roots, this is a real challenge. What can be done for the workers who are used to toiling for industrialists and magnates, I don't know. Retraining is always an option, but whether or not these workers are making successful transitions is up in the air.
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
Messages
1,371
Points
28
Yes. The transition can be difficult. How planners are to regard it is problematic. If you take an historic perspective you can point to all sorts of transitions in the past - the dieselization of the railroads is one example - when large numbers of industrial workers were forced to find new ways to make a living, and eventually did. There are some differences though. In the '50's, a railroad worker who was willing to do so could reasonably expect to find a factory job. Now, you'd have to move to Malaysia or Mauritius or ? to be sure of finding an industrial job. So, what are those folks to do? I don't think anybody knows. All we can try to do is to speed up the rate of transition by providing educational programs, small business counseling, etc. I don't know what rate of successful transition these programs can produce. I am pretty sure the rate is higher for women than for men. I am pretty sure that transitions out of millwork and mining are slower than out of other industries, including agriculture. I am curious what planners in more industrial cities think about this.
 

mike gurnee

Cyburbian
Messages
3,066
Points
30
I do not know if my last town is a good example, but in that Ohio River rust belt, many spouses of industrial workers did not work. As the jobs evaporated, the spouses found salaried jobs in retailing and services. That might be one item to look at across census periods.
 

japrovo

Member
Messages
103
Points
6
Portland has been one of the few cities in the nation gaining in 20-34 year olds, a key demographic target in this pursuit of the Creative Class. Many seem to be buzzing about it but to what end? We're hosting a forum where an economist will lay out Florida's work in the context of Portland's economy and a panel of "young creatives" will tell their stories. Any suggestions for questions to pose to this panel? The event will also be broadcast for free on-line as noted below. Live streaming video available at: http://www.media.pdx.edu [select Distance Learning Center Stream #1 or #2]

Sorry, should have added that the webcast will be Friday, April 25, 3-5 pm.
 

oulevin

Cyburbian
Messages
178
Points
7
Panel question

A fundamental question to pose is: how much research do they do in their move decision? Do they rely on preconceived notions, or do they ask around, do research, or actually visit the place options?
 

japrovo

Member
Messages
103
Points
6
The research behind their searches appeared to be pretty idiosyncratic. There seemed to be circuit of different big cities (e.g. NYC or SF) or quality of life magnets (e.g. Colorado or Pacific NW) that people were trying on for size until one fit. It was a pretty interesting discussion and the content will be archived on our website www.upa.pdx.edu/IMS hopefully within the next week or so. I think it is worth viewing for the economist's introduction alone. He elaborates on the role of differentiation and consumer preferences in the attraction that a place like Portland holds for these people. For those of us old enough to remember it is really the same message that the shy kid always got about dating in the after school specials---be yourself!
 

japrovo

Member
Messages
103
Points
6
For now the links are living with the series schedule under events.
http://www.upa.pdx.edu/IMS/about/events.html

Last month's session on equity is up and I expect to have the creative class discussion up in the next week or so. Btw there are two more events this Spring, a discussion of innovative design aspects of the new Adidas HQ in Portland and a session on the economic implications of urban growth boundary expansion.

We'll be taking the summer off and starting up again in the fall. At that point the Spring 03 archive will probably move it to its own page.
 
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