The Creative Class and the Future of Our Cities with Dr. Richard Florida
The best-selling author of The Rise of the Creative Class, social scientist Richard Florida is one of the key forces driving urban regeneration. Renown for his cutting-edge research, he has spent more than a decade helping city planners revitalize communities and convert some of the country’s declining urban areas into inviting places to live. Florida serves as the Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management; additionally, he is a Global Research Professor at New York University.
SPEAKING.COM: Who is the creative class? Is there a difference between having a “creative job” and being in the creative class?
FLORIDA: The Creative Class includes people who work in science and technology; arts and culture; and business, management, and the professions. These are the thinkers, leaders, innovators, influencers and entrepreneurs who are pushing the cultural and commercial envelope, developing, designing, and marketing the newest products and services.
This class makes up between a third and half of the workforce in the advanced nations and much more than that in great cities. It is the leading economic and trend-setting force in our economy and society. Worldwide there are more than 150 million creative workers. In the U.S., the Creative Class control more than 50% of wages and income and nearly 70% of all discretionary spending. Simply put, the Creative Class is the main engine of future economic growth.
SPEAKING.COM: According to your categorization, what other social classes currently exist besides the creative class?
FLORIDA: The other two sectors of our economy include the service sector and working/ production-based workforce. The service sector includes those working in food service, personal services, office and administrative roles and health care support. By far, this is the fastest-growing segment of our workforce. The working/ production based workforce is comprised of those working in construction, transportation, production and building maintenance.
SPEAKING.COM: Your studies show that innovative people are concentrated in certain regions and cities. In a world that’s more connected than ever by technology, why do creative people seem to cluster together in certain cities?
FLORIDA: Cities are economic and social organizing machines. They bring creative people and ideas together, providing the platform for them to combine and recombine in myriad ways, spurring both artistic and cultural creativity and technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic growth.
SPEAKING.COM: One of the factors you emphasize in your research is the importance that location plays in people’s success and happiness. What factors do you recommend businesses take into consideration when choosing a location?
FLORIDA: Location plays an ever more important part in firm strategy and performance. For business executives, this is more than just picking locations where costs are low. The right location can provide business and entrepreneurs with the access to key customers and clients, talent pools, R&D assets and clusters of other companies. Location decisions are not one-size-fits-all decisions; they must be tailored to the specific need of the business and its future strategy.
SPEAKING.COM: Every now and then you release a ranking of “creative” cities/metro areas based on work force statistics. What cities or metro areas do you foresee topping that list in 2016? Are there any dark horses that might just be “next Silicon Valley?”
FLORIDA: That’s a tough question; many cities all over the world are making great strides in improving their quality of place and knowledge-based industries. I’d be looking at places that are working to improve their standing on what I call the 3Ts of Economic Development – Technology, Talent and Tolerance. Technology and innovation are critical components of a city’s ability to drive economic growth. Talented people are absolutely key and the communities that they are most drawn to are open to new ideas and different kinds of people.
SPEAKING.COM: What are a few steps that local governments and other organizations can take to attract innovative residents and employees?
FLORIDA: Talent, Technology, and Tolerance – represent what I call the 3Ts of economic development. The 3Ts approach represents a strategy for how cities can compete in the creative age and attract the Creative Class to their communities.
- Talent: The driving force behind any effective economic strategy is talented people. We live in a more mobile age than ever before.
- Technology: Technology and innovation are critical components of a community or organization’s ability to drive economic growth. To be successful, communities and organizations must have the avenues for transferring research, ideas, and innovation into marketable and sustainable products.
- Tolerance: Economic prosperity relies on cultural, entrepreneurial, civic, scientific, and artistic creativity.
Creative workers with these talents need communities, organizations, and peers that are open to new ideas and different people.
SPEAKING.COM: Today in many cultural capitals like San Francisco and New York, there’s a great concern that that rising cost of living is squeezing out the diverse population and creative classes that fostered such vibrant cultures in the first place. How is this demographic shift affecting these cities’ creative economies?
FLORIDA: Our cities face deep, deep challenges. Some are becoming increasingly unaffordable to the Creative Class and only playgrounds for the wealthy minority. While the arts are not a silver bullet for cities, they do play a very important role in urban economic development.
My work around my new book, The New Urban Crisis, has found segregation and division within our cities to be at great heights. We will need to act upon a new social compact and urban growth model to ensure our cities are inclusive for all creatives and residents. It is critical to the soul of our cities.
SPEAKING.COM: A proposal that has gained powerful momentum within the past year is the institution of a “$15/hour living wage.” What consequences would this initiative have on cities’ economies and the growing inequality between social classes?
FLORIDA: Given the differences in housing and living costs across U.S. metros, a single national rate makes little sense. In fact, I have made the case for a localized minimum wage that should be 50 to 60 percent of the median wage. While some have argued that raising the minimum wage will drive up prices and could force some people out of work, research has suggested that raising the minimum wage can actually help the economy. A hypothetical 10 percent hike in the minimum wage would have no statistically significant negative effects on restaurant or retail industry employment but could actually reduce poverty levels by 2 percent.
SPEAKING.COM: In your 2010 book The Great Reset, you presented an optimistic outlook for the post-recession period, calling it “a fresh era of growth and prosperity” with “surprising opportunities for all of us.” What are some examples of growth and prosperity that you’ve observed since your book was published?
FLORIDA: First, we’ve seen a migration back to our cities, creating a greater investment in our urban cores. Many of the economic forces – the concentration of assets, for example – require that we evaluate our choices and needs more holistically.
Second, we are seeing a greater focus on experiences and less on mass consumption. Today’s Creative Class is searching for real meaning, authenticity and prosperity, creating opportunities for businesses and communities who fully grasp this new path forward.
SPEAKING.COM: Tell us about your upcoming book, The New Urban Crisis.
FLORIDA: I will explore the good and the bad sides of our ongoing urban revival. While the migration back to cities is creating great opportunities, it is also creating great challenges – rising inequality, gentrification and unaffordability, and worsening economic segregation. The creative economy is a rising tide, but it’s not lifting all boats—blue collar and service workers are actually worse off in many places, and there is a hard core of multi-generational poverty that remains untouched. I outline a new urban growth model and a set of policies that can help make our cities more inclusive and resilient.
To bring Dr. Richard Florida to your organization, please contact Michael Frick at: Mike@Speaking.com.
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