Don’t (re)create West Virginia?

Richard Florida’s book The Rise of the Creative Class was the standard tome for economic and community revitalization for most of the past decade.  In it Dr. Florida taught us that all we needed to do was focus on three “T’s” – technology, talent, and tolerance – to transform our communities into the equivalent of Silicon Valleys.  Despite his simple recipe for creative success, few communities made the transformation that Dr. Florida envisioned.

Now, I am sad to report, Dr. Florida has concluded that we should just give up on community development.  Instead of supporting communities, explains The American Prospect in an article aptly titled “The Ruse of the Creative Class,” we should start supporting people.  His words from a May 2009 blog post: “People – not industries or even places – should be our biggest concern.  We can best help those who are hardest-hit by the [economic] crisis, by providing a generous social safety [net], investing in their skills, and when necessary helping them become mobile and move where the opportunities are.”

Had we known back then how easy it was to (re)create West Virginia, we could have saved  a lot of time and money by buying everyone suitcases and renting them Ryder trucks so they could move to more stylish bergs like Austin, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Boulder, Colorado.

Was Dr. Florida correct then or is he correct now?  Stay tuned.

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~ by Dennis Taylor on 8 January 2010.

One Response to “Don’t (re)create West Virginia?”

  1. Although a lot of creative community and new economy practice is based on Florida’s initial work, a lot of other folks have built on it to the point where the underlying formula of advances in education/talent development, technology, diversity and quality of place seem viable. How a local community decides to build those assets is often unique and certainly requires their buy-in. It’s not the same as “open an industrial park.”

    That being said, I’ve never been a big fan of Florida because he is inherently biased in favor of urban areas (for obvious reasons…It’s easy to be ga-ga over the talent magnets of NYC, Northern VA, San Fran, etc.). However, we at Create WV think there are plenty of case studies to prove that the underlying creative community approach IS valid for small towns and rural areas as a strategy for revitalization.

    Cases in point include the very cities mentioned in the blog: Raleigh, Boulder and Austin were not the high-tech, high-growth centers they are now just a few decades ago. Each of them happen to be nerve centers of university-based R&D and have applied creative community/new economy growth principles to be who they are today. We think that can happen in WV, and it already has in Morgantown…We think it can happen in Huntington, Elkins, Glenville, and many other communities as well.

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