More than just the creative class

Dr. Richard Florida is the father of the concept of creative class  “a fast-growing, highly educated, and well-paid segment of the workforce on whose efforts corporate profits and economic growth increasingly depend. Members of the creative class do a wide variety of work in a wide variety of industries—from technology to entertainment, journalism to finance, high-end manufacturing to the arts. They do not consciously think of themselves as a class. Yet they share a common ethos that values creativity, individuality, difference, and merit”. Catering to the creative class is the core of Dr. Floridas blueprint on flourishing cities. He has taken a new look at what makes cities grow both economically and socially. Dr. Florida currently lives and works in Toronto, Canada and is the director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto. He received his undergraduate degree from Rutgers and continued his education at Columbia University where he got his Ph.D. Richard Florida has appeared on various network television programs and is very active within the planning community through his Twitter account and his writings in the Atlantic Cities where he is the editor- at- large. Richard Florida was recently published in a list of top ten most influential speakers. Needless to say, he has pull  in the planning community.Dr. Florida suggests that cities cater to the creative class by drawing in talent that is interested in nightlife, pedestrian commuter trails, local music scenes and other extracurricular events. Dr. Florida thinks that by making a city attractive for the creative class, the economy of the region will flourish with existing high end service companies growing alongside promising entrepreneurial upstarts. He concentrates fully on the creative class, and neglects other classes.

Even with all of the critiques of Florida and the creative class, the idea still has good points. A vibrant nightlife and a forward thinking community are clearly positive factors for a city. Promoting companies like Google, that hire the creative class also seems like a good idea because of the economic impact a company like that has. However relying entirely on creative class growth is not a good idea, especially in the West.  Since the West is a matchless area, it should be planned and organized in a manner specifically designed to fit its special nature.

The Western region of the United States is a remarkably diverse and unique place. Its terrain varies from the Sonoran Desert to the Rocky Mountains, and from the high plateaus of Nevada to the rainforest of Oregon. The Western region is an amazing expansive place, and its inhabitants are as unique and diverse as the terrain they live in.

It’s special not only because of the terrain, but because of what it took for the original pioneers to settle the rugged landscape. To this day the frontier spirit can still be seen, especially in the more rural states such as Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. The close knit feel of many of the cities in the West comes from the wide variety of people that live there. The West has a community where people are held accountable for their actions because there are less people and because there is a smaller degree of separation.

The diversity in professions that happens in many smaller Western cities is very appealing. It helps create an environment that keeps people more connected to the outdoors, and to the variety of people it takes to live in a modern society. Loving a place doesn’t come from nice buildings or awesome walking paths, it’s the vibe the city or area puts off. If our planning format for this area relies too heavily on the creative class it will neglect the working class. There are plenty of good ideas that come from Dr. Florida’s planning prospective that can be implemented but, he doesn’t seem to give much heed to anyone other than the creative class.

To maintain the great symbiosis that we enjoy , between the blue collar worker and the white collar professional, it is crucial to foster an community plan that nourishes both levels of producer. Instead of concentrating fully on walking  trails, sustainability, and the music scene; why not balance in some trade school incentives.  Work on raising the wages of low end workers to make living close to the city a viable option. These things would help diversity and enhance the feeling of our city, keeping it grass roots and growing at the same time.

3 thoughts on “More than just the creative class

  1. Cody, I like how you ended your post – with a call to invest in blue-collar employment opportunities. But, do you think that Richard Florida is asking communities to disinvest from such activities — in order to fund a “creative class” set of policies and incentives? I guess I’m asking if you believe that economic development is a zero-sum game. After Florida published The Rise of the Creative Class he came to speak in Boise — actually brought in by the city’s Department of Art & History — due mainly to his book’s mentioning that Boise residents having one of the nation’s highest per capita rate of patent-holders. Cities like Boise (and Austin, TX, etc.) become homes for creative industries for a number of reasons, but one of the most prevalent is the access to wilderness, recreation, the arts, and music. Geniuses are perhaps the most mobile of workers, being able to relocate to what ever place seems the most “fun” — or sympathetic to their own senses of self. I always got the impression that cities have done a miserable job at recognizing their own assets — and Florida’s work lends credence to the idea that often under-represented segments of communities are left wanting. This is especially concerning given that the efforts of the Creative Class actually provide all the manufacturing jobs and personal service jobs that are typically filled by blue-collar workers. I’m all for providing work-force and technically training — but let’s make sure there are actually jobs waiting for them when they finish their certificates. Here’s an article on another aspect of Florida’s work, his “Gay Index”:

  2. I’m not sure “symbiosis” is the right word for the relationship between blue collar and white collar workers … A symbiosis would be mutually beneficial and while a trickle down perspective might argue that raising middle and upper class incomes floats all boats, I don’t buy that.

    As to both Florida’s creative class argument and your counter, I’d suggest that a *new* creative class could be defined in such a way as to cut across traditional, job defined or income defined classes. Plenty of working class people in Idaho go kayaking and biking on the weekends, use Facebook and make things. We need to broaden our thinking on what constitutes “education” and realize that income does not define interest. Many of the creative class people Florida may have in mind, are living on sweat equity alone, dreaming of the day someone pays them for their great ideas.

    • Nathan, Thanks for the input, I see what you mean how the creative class interests intersect class and income boundaries.


      On Sun, Sep 15, 2013 at 3:55 PM, boiseplanning

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