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.
Brandon E. Young