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.
The key factor that draws people to a certain place is the place itself. Quality of Place, in comparison to Quality of Life, refers to a unique set of characteristics that define a place and make it attractive. This factor is so important, that Florida has identified Quality of Place as “Territorial Assets”; the fourth T of economic development after Technology, Talent, and Tolerance (the 3Ts of Economic Growth).
There are three key dimensions to Quality of Place (Florida, “What Draws Creative People?”):
What’s there: the combination of the built environment and the natural environment; a stimulating, appealing setting for the pursuit of creative lives.
Who’s there: diverse people of all ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and sexual orientations, interacting and providing clear cues that this is a community where anyone can fit in and make a life.
What’s going on: the vibrancy of the street life, café culture, arts, and music; the visible presence of people engaging in outdoor activities—altogether a lot of active, exciting, creative goings-ons.
In summary, Quality of Place is about an interrelated set of experiences. Many of these experiences occur at the street level and are dynamic and participatory. Everyone is a part of the picture of the place; whether it’s being a part of the street-buzz or retreating to your home or the park.
Quality of Place does not occur automatically. It is an ongoing, dynamic process that involves the engagement of a number of disparate aspects of a community. However, the process is not always a good thing; what appears to be neighborhood revitalization from one perspective is gentrification from another. (Florida, “What Draws Creative People?)
Another element of Quality of Place is thick labor markets. Creative people are attracted to places that offer several jobs in their field rather than just one. They want confidence in knowing that there are several opportunities for them and they don’t have to feel trapped working the same job for the rest of their life. To be attractive, a place needs to offer a job market that is conducive to a horizontal career path (Florida, Revisited 287).
Thick labor markets allow for place to solve a basic puzzle of our economic order: it facilitates the matching of creative people to economic opportunities, providing a labor pool for companies that need people and a thick labor market for people who need jobs. In this way, place replaces the large corporation. It becomes the central organizing unit of our economy and society. “The gathering of people, companies, and resources into particular places with particular specialties and capabilities generates both the efficiencies and the innovations that power economic growth” (Florida, Revisited 288).
Brandon E. Young