Cleveland was a key American industrial center built near large coal and iron ore deposits during the late 19th century. It was home to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company in the 1860s. Meanwhile, the steel industry was booming in Cleveland as well. Cleveland became a transportation hub, serving as the halfway point between the natural resources from the west and the mills and factories of the east. However, since the end of World War II, rust-belt industrial cities such as Detroit, Youngstown, and Cleveland have experienced notable population loss and urban shrinkage due to a decline in their economic and social bases. In the case of Cleveland, it was the loss of manufacturing jobs that caused the major economic and demographic shift. There is no clear definition of shrinking cities; there has been a range of interpretations of the phenomenon. The Shrinking Cities International Research Network, on one hand, defines a shrinking city as a densely populated urban area with a minimum population of 10,000 residents that has faced significant population loss for two years or more and is facing economic transformations with symptoms of structural crisis.
From a planning perspective, there is the dilemma that urban development is strongly interlinked with growth, leading to the perception that urban shrinkage is a threat or taboo. Trying to maintain a strategy of economic growth with the goal of regaining population growth used to be the common reaction of city planners towards urban shrinkage, oftentimes leading to success. In shrinking cities such as Cleveland, it is important to “advocate a new sensibility in planning that relies on honesty when it comes to coping with future challenges of shrinking cities” (Pallagst). Some planners and cities have resorted to “planned shrinkage,” in which they let hopeless neighborhoods fall to dust, and support the healthier areas that remain standing.
Reflecting on industrial cities, Florida wrote in “The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited, “I have spent my entire life living, working, and studying in industrial cities. I adore the realness and authenticity of these great cities. Cities such as Pittsburgh have imposed bottom-up, community-based efforts for growth rather than top-down policies set by local governments. While Pittsburgh’s government and business leaders implemented big-government solutions such as stadiums and convention centers, it was the community groups and citizen-led initiatives that led to a major turn-around for the city. Community groups, local foundations, and nonprofits- not city hall or business-led economic development groups- drove its transformation. They played a key role in stabilizing and strengthening neighborhoods, investing in green technology and infrastructure, and spurring the development of the waterfront and redevelopment around the universities. Many of Pittsburgh’s best neighborhoods, such as its South Side, have avoided the “wrath of urban renewal.” Others like East Liberty have benefited from community initiatives designed to remedy the damage done by large-scale urban renewal efforts that “left vacant lots in place of functioning neighborhoods and built soulless public housing high-rise towers.” The East Liberty neighborhood is now home to several new community development projects, including a Whole Foods Market, which provides local jobs as well as serving as an anchor for the surrounding community. This kind of bottom-up process takes considerable time and perseverance. In Pittsburgh’s case, it took the better part of a generation to achieve stability and the potential for longer-term revival.
It is more rewarding to invest in local assets and businesses rather than invest in large projects such as stadiums, convention centers, and hotels. It is important to employ local people and utilize their skills, and invest in improving quality of place. “Urban revitalization based on luring so-called big game projects no longer has a place in the advanced countries. If economic developers want to do that today, they should move to China. That’s where all the big corporate projects are or are heading. Revitalizing older cities in North America and Europe increasingly depends on being able to support lots of smaller activities, groups, and projects."
Critics of Florida have reacted boldly to his "creative class" theory for economic growth. Mainly, they contend that the economics behind his theories don't work. "Although Florida's book bristles with charts and statistics showing how he constructed his various indexes and where cities rank on them, the professor, incredibly, doesn't provide any data demonstrating that his creative cities actually have vibrant economies that perform well over time."
Critics note the most fundamental measure of economics, job growth, as one way to demonstrate a flaw in his theories. Florida's creativity index lists San Francisco, Austin, Houston, and San Diego among the top ten. New Orleans, Las Vegas, Memphis, and Oklahoma City rank in the bottom ten. These cities, Florida states, are "stuck in paradigms of old economic development" and are losing their "economic dynamism" to the cities that are ranked higher. As a result of his model for economic growth, you'd expect the top cities to be big job producers, however, that is not the case. Since 1993, the cities that score the highest on Florida's analysis have not seen job growth as fast as the overall U.S. jobs economy, increasing their employment base by only slightly more than 17 percent.
Secondly, critics acknowledge the fact that Florida states that his most creative cities as centers of innovation and yet, according to one recent independent study of entrepreneurship in America, Floridaís most creative cities are ìno more likely to be powerful incubators of fast-growing businesses than those at the bottom of his ranking. This study, entitled "Mapping Americaís Entrepreneurial Landscape," ranked U.S. cities on how well they produce high-growth companies.
Unlike Florida, the commission developed a precise method of measuring high-growth centers: it calculated the percentage of companies in a local economy that grew by 15 percent a year for five consecutive years in the mid-1990s. Unlike Florida's anecdotal observations of places where he assumes that plenty of entrepreneurial activity is taking place, the commissionís numbers-oriented approach precisely charts Americaís entrepreneurial topography. Unexpectedly, the study concludes that ìmost fast-growing, entrepreneurial companies are not in high tech industries, but rather widely distributed across all industries.
The study found that high-growth companies are found in all regions of the country, in the most surprising areas. In fact, many areas in the rust belt- long viewed as an area of slow economic growth- showed a large number of high-growth companies. Cleveland ranked 22 on the study for Labor Market Areas with a population of 1-3 million, maintaining a Growth Company Index of 156. According to the study, the strongest business sectors in Cleveland are business services, distributive, extractive, local market, manufacturing, and retail.
The study also emphasizes that each of the 395 regions in the country contains some high-growth companies. While there is significant variation in the percentage of high-growth companies among Labor Market Areas, every LMA hosts growth companies that provide a base on which to build more high-growth companies. Most regions high-growth companies concentrate in certain specific industry sectors. The data highlights how future economic development strategies should be based around regional strengths. The data depicts that 89 percent of all of the LMAs in the country have comparative strengths in certain industry sectors, relative to other LMAs in their population size classes.
Some critics remark on Floridaís attempt to make something qualitative and turn it into something quantitative. My core message is that human creativity is the ultimate source of economic growth. Every single person is creative in some way. And to fully tap and harness that creativity we must be tolerant, diverse, inclusive. The idea that economic growth, a quantitative variable, coincides with creativity, a qualitative variable, emphasizes this point.
Some critics claim that Florida's creativity index and its connection to economic growth is not logical. Florida concludes that the cities that rank the highest on the creativity index rank the highest in terms of economic growth due to the abundance of creative workers, rather than individual companies, who came to live in cities they admired and then started their own firms or attracted businesses seeking educated workers. What enticed these workers, the professor concluded with very little evidence, was that the cities were tolerant, diverse and open to creativity.
Many critics of Richard Florida's Creative Class argue that his model for economic growth doesn't consequently produce the greatest amount of jobs. The study titled "Mapping Americaís Entrepreneurial Landscape" emphasizes that high-growth companies are not found solely within the "creative" sector, but are found in all areas of work. The study concludes that future economic development strategies should be based around regional strengths, whether it be creative, service or working-class related. In Richard Florida's most recent book, he has responded to many of these critics and further emphasizes his main points he made in his first book, The Rise of the Creative Class, ten years earlier. However, there are other sources that cite Florida and emphasis how his theories have generated economic growth. One of these sources, titled ìCreative Place-making, which was published in 2010, outlines several case studies that have implemented Floridaís model for economic growth and have proven to be very successful as a result.
Reacting to the Critics
Like Florida, many people and organizations agree that creative place-making is the key to economic growth. The white paper titled "Creative Place-making" credits the creative locales which foster entrepreneurs and cultural industries that generate jobs and income, spin off new products and services, and attract and retain unrelated businesses and skilled workers. The main points that the research makes is that economic development is achieved through the 1.) Recirculation of residents' income locally at a higher rate 2.) Re-use of vacant and underutilized land, buildings, and infrastructure, 3.) Creation of jobs in construction, local businesses, and cultural activity, 4.) Expansion of the entrepreneurial ranks of artists and designers, 5.) Training of the next generation of cultural workers and 6.) Attraction of non-artist-related businesses and skills.
The research also states that economic development quickens because arts and cultural investments help the region to capture a higher share of expenditures from local income. Re-using vacant space generates local property and sales tax revenues that can be put towards streets and streetscape, lighting, sanitation, greenery, and police and fire. In addition, jobs and incomes are generated in construction, retail businesses, and arts and cultural production. New businesses in the creative industry and others are attracted to these communities. This research supports the idea that creative communities can spark economic development, and attract new businesses, artists and entrepreneurs. This research also emphasizes the importance of local, community-driven initiatives as the answer to long-term economic growth rather than governmental, policy-driven strategies.
In Florida’s new book, “The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited” Florida argues that the old methods for building creative communities simply will not work. It’s not enough to just provide good schools or a family-friendly environment, just as it’s not enough merely to have an environment that’s teeming with restaurants and bars. Florida argues that cities need to attract a people climate as much as a business climate. A people climate refers to a general strategy aimed at attracting and retaining people, especially, but not limited to, creative people.
There is no one-size-fits-all model for a successful creative community. An effective people climate cannot have restrictions and be monolithic because the creative class group is diverse across the dimensions of age, ethnicity and race, marital status, and sexual orientation. Building a creative community is an “organic,” bottom-up process. “It’s a matter of providing the right conditions, planting the right seeds, and then letting things take their course.”
Extensive research has been conducted trying to determine the ideal age range to target in order to build a successful community. Most community leaders will tell you that married couples in their late thirties and forties- people with middle to upper income jobs and stable family lives is who they try to attract. However, one group that has been neglected by most communities, at least until recently, is young single people. In the creative age, Florida notes, young people matter for several reasons. They are workhorses, more prone to take risks and have up-to-date skills.
But a stable people climate is not all about age. What really matters is that cities and regions have a people climate that recognizes every type of person and every type of family. Regardless of age, people enjoy stimulating, dynamic places with high levels of cultural interplay. And if they have children, that’s the kind of environment they want to see their children in. In fact, many families prefer to live in urban settings. However, the truth is that many families tend to leave the city when their kids reach school age. What’s important to remember is that families themselves are increasingly diverse and that cities must be able to attract and retain diverse people and families.
Brandon E. Young