Last week Richard Florida, best-selling author/world-renowned urban theorist/”intellectual rock star” visited Anchorage to give the keynote speech at Anchorage Economic Development Corporation’s 2013 Anchorage Economic Forecast luncheon.
Richard is known for writing The Rise of the Creative Class and is “as close to a household name as it is possible for an urban theorist to be in America,” according to The Economist. His premise is that, “every single human being is creative. The biggest challenge of the creative age is to lift the bottom up and encourage a prosperous, vibrant and sustainable community for all.”
Richard is an incredibly engaging speaker, and I didn’t just drink a glass of Kool-Aid, I drank the whole pitcher! Easy to do because a lot of what he spoke about were things that I already think about and believe in (just not to the same ridiculously intelligently researched depth) from reading other theorists and working in the world of economic development, but he crystalized those thoughts and lent them gravitas, validity, and showed me what they look like taken to the nth degree and beyond. Let’s just say I will be spending a lot of time reading and re-reading The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited and anything Richard writes.
If you want to see the full speech, the video is posted on AEDC’s website. These were my big takeaways/favorite parts/theories to ponder, in no particular order:
- We are living through the greatest period of economic change in human history.
- People don’t go where jobs are; jobs go where people are.
- Consider what kind of communities we can create and develop to attract people.
- The 60s were like a giant temper tantrum.
- 2008 was one of the greatest economic collapses in memory; at the depths of the economic crisis, unemployment for the creative class never hit 5%.
- Alaska has 92,000 people doing creative professional work, which is 2% higher than the national average.
- The “best” towns in the country are 45% creative.
- Successful communities are built on the three Ts: technology, talent, and tolerance.
- Creativity requires diversity, and a creative community requires openness, tolerance, and diversity.
- Anchorage is in the lowest two-thirds of the country for technology, the top one fifth for talent, and at least 10% better than the national average for tolerance,which Richard also calls the “bohemian factor.”
- A strong art scene is a signal of openness to new ideas.
- Cities are the core economic and socializing units of our time. We need harness the creativity of our city.
- Play is not frivolous.
- You can’t turn creativity on and off, it comes at strange moments.
- In a wold that has become so generic (like Starbucks in Dubai), people look for uniqueness.
Richard also shared an interesting survey from Gallup called Soul of the Community. It is “a three-year study that explores what community qualities influence residents’ loyalty and passion for where they live and how those feelings relate to indicators of community well-being such as local economic growth.” He touched on the top three factors that drive community attachment, but I’m including all eleven for you:
- Social offerings: Entertainment infrastructure for people to meet each other and how much residents care about each other.
- Openness: How welcoming the community is to different types of people.
- Aesthetics: An area’s physical beauty and green spaces.
- Education: Quality of K-12 schooling and local colleges and universities.
- Basic services: Infrastructure supports, including highways, housing and health care.
- Leadership: Rating of leadership and whether elected officials represent residents’ interests.
- Economy: Local economic and employment conditions.
- Emotional wellness: The mixture of mental and physical well-being.
- Safety: Local crime and safety conditions.
- Social capital: The personal connections residents have to each other.
- Civic involvement: Voting, volunteering, attending meetings, and working for change.
I think we’re doing pretty well on a lot of these factors, but still have plenty of room for improvement. I dream of the day that all of Anchorage is invested in and attached to our community.
I feel so incredibly lucky that Anchorage got to have someone like Richard visit our city. Oh, and he likes our IPAs! He gave the Glacier Brewhouse a shout-out , and also complimented the Whale’s Tail. Pretty nice to hear from someone who’s traveled the world (although I think we all already knew that AK is home to some world-class breweries!).
Thank you AEDC for bringing such a vibrant, inspiring, and relevant person to Anchorage.