Mark your calendars for October 21. You are going to want to hear Richard Florida. What a funny name. But the impact he is having on economic development across the country, and even across the world, isn�t so funny. Florida is the Heinz Professor of Economic Development at Carnegie Mellon, where he also heads the Software Industry Center. He has been a visiting professor at MIT and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC. He has a very, very large audience for his off-beat thinking.
His claim to fame is The Rise of the Creative Class, a book about a fundamental theme that runs through a host of seemingly unrelated changes in American society: the growing role of creativity in our economy.
Creativity might be Florida�s word for what Silicon Valley calls �innovation.� But if you look at the roots of the word �creativity,� you will find it means �to bring into being.� Something from nothing. God created man. It�s a big deal.
Just as William Whyte’s 1956 classic The Organization Man showed how the organizational ethos of that age permeated every aspect of life, Florida describes a society in which the creative ethos is increasingly dominant. Because we have the gifts of technology, and we can office virtually, millions of us are beginning to work and live much as creative types like artists and scientists always have. We work at home, we make our own hours, we manage ourselves – with the result that our values and tastes, our personal relationships, our choices of where to live, and even our sense and use of time are changing. We don�t really have to live in Pittsburg or Minneapolis anymore if we don�t want to. We can telecommute.
Leading the shift are the nearly 38 million Americans in many diverse fields who create for a living � the Creative Class. I am one of them, and so are both of my daughters. One daughter works largely out of her home in California, two blocks from a beach. The other is in the process of moving to Amsterdam and telecommuting to a job in New Jersey. Me, I live in a high rise in Phoenix, where I work in a home office with two dogs and a cat. It�s a far cry from when I started at J. Walter Thompson � in the creative department at 420 Lexington Avenue. In those days, if you were a creative type, you had to live in New York.
Most important: the creative class is mobile. It votes with its feet. It can live anywhere. It doesn�t care so much about how much housing costs: look at the giant creative communities in New York, California, and Massachusetts, three notoriously expensive, highly-taxed states. The creative class doesn�t care. It wants atmosphere, convenience, compatibility and it will pay for it.
The Rise of the Creative Class chronicles the ongoing sea of change in people’s choices and attitudes, and shows not only what’s happening but also how it stems from a fundamental economic change (www.creativeclass.org) . Here�s a shocking statistic: the Creative Class now comprises more than thirty percent of the entire workforce. The choices these people make already have had a huge economic impact, and in the future they will determine how the workplace is organized, what companies will prosper or go bankrupt, and even which cities will thrive or wither.
On October 21, Richard Florida will be in Phoenix to help us continue a long-standing dialogue on how to make our downtown more creative. The New Times has rented the entire Orpheum Theatre and has underwritten Florida�s hefty fee. All that remains is to fill the auditorium with people who want to work on making Phoenix one of the great creative cities. Woody Allen said that 95% of life is just showing up. Show up. You can get a free ticket from The New Times at Phoenix New Times
1201 E. Jefferson Phoenix, AZ 85034 Phone: 602-271-0040