City Networking

I attended a talk yesterday at the Albany Palace by Richard Florida.  Florida is an economist that has written or spoken for every major news journal, paper, radio or tv program I’m aware of.  

The comical (or embarrassing) part is that I hadn’t realized how big of an evening I was getting myself into.  A philanthropist local to Schenectady has taken a liking to myself and two other young artists.  Not only did she pay for our tickets, she paid for the meet & greet with the author and the post-party with the high rollers – a package of about $200 per person.  Everyone was wearing suits and sport coats at this thing.  I on the other hand, wore khaki cargo pants and, as I later learned from my wife, shoes that didn’t match my shirt choice.  Meanwhile, scrub-tastic looking me is stuffing his face with appetizers as bank managers, politicians, and leading artist figures hob knobing for my time.  I met Michael (Albany First Friday Director and Lark Street Improvement Leader), Jeffery (Albany Barn Founder), Catherine (Stakeholders Inc. CEO), Richard Florida (the author/speaker), and stood all of ten feet from Mayor Jennings.

As for the content, Florida spoke on Who’s your City?  I got a book he’s put out on the same title, which I’m looking forward to reading.  In the mean time, here are my gleanings from his talk. 

  • Florida designates the “Creative Class” as a separate and distinguishing work force from the manufacturing and service industries.  The creative class is designers, artists, scientists, engineers, university researchers, etc…  Only 5% of the America workforce was in the Creative Class as of 1900, 10% up until 1980, and has been 30% since .
  • The Creative Class explains why America has remained on top of the world economy despite manufacturing decline.  Talented and creative people will always drive the work world.  Florida sites instances of companies relocating, despite lack of financial incentives, simply to be in a city with access to a greater creative class.  The most creative international thinkers most often contribute to the American economy, because they have decided that America is the best place to live.  Florida therefore believes the greatest thing a city can do for their economic development is to figure out how to attract and retain a Creative Class by their living environment. 
  • After surveying top professionals and creative people, Florida lists the top three characteristics creative people are looking for in their city.
    1. A beautiful Place.  Natural beauty, a well kept city, creative vibe, openness to new ideas, etc…
    2. Relational Opportunities.  Places for friendships and networking.
    3. Career Opportunities – Interesting that this was only third on the list.

Florida didn’t share a magic bullet that will change it all.  He believes a city will succeed if creative people want to live there.  As for what will make people choose you city over another, a long list of tangibles and intangibles come into play.

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