He is this incredibly handsome, urbane, smooth academic. And academics arent supposed to be that way, Leinberger said. And some people are bloody jealous.
Florida, in fact, has taken pains, especially in the new edition of Rise, to acknowledge that creative cities are also characterized by economic disparity, in part because the concentration of prospering creatives drives up housing costs. He has urged the introduction of elements of the creative economy into the service sector that employs 47 percent of Americans by building in opportunities for advancement.
Some downtrodden towns that hired Florida to develop creative-city redevelopment strategies failed to realize economic benefits. He says he never promised quick or easy turnarounds, and some urbanists say his clients had unrealistic expectations.
Whos come around with a formula for turning around Flint, Mich.? said Aaron Renn, a respected analyst who writes the Urbanophile blog.
Florida himself has shown much more concern for the poor and downtrodden who have been crushed by this economy than some of his critics. Maybe theres been an overemphasis on artists. But whether art causes prosperity or its just correlated, its clear that you want lots of art in your town.
Florida has also made it a point to acknowledge that suburbs will retain a key role, but only if they become more like cities pedestrian-friendly and better connected, and with urban amenities. His thinking is grounded in years of data-driven research going back to his days as a young urban economist at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, which was undergoing a gradual transformation from smokestack loser to new-economy success. But it has its origins in his Italian-American upbringing in Newark, N.J., where his factory-worker father was a casualty of the downward economic spiral that swept much of urban America in the 1960s and 70s.Even in manufacturing, Florida observed, companies that engaged floor workers in problem-solving did better. In his most controversial insight, he realized that thriving cities were home to high proportions of gays, lesbians and other bohemian types, and he developed an index to rank them.
The three Ts
That confluence led him to the core of his theory, the three Ts of prosperity: tolerance (as measured by the proportions of gays, immigrants, minorities and bohemians), technological prowess and talent, as defined by the number of people engaged in creative endeavors. He found cities that scored highest in all three also enjoyed the highest growth rates.
Its not that artists and bohos cause economic growth, he says; its that cities with such populations appear to be accepting places where talented if unconventional people can thrive. Four of 10 creative workers dont actually have college degrees, he says, which undermines his critics charges of elitism.
As it happens, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area that is Floridas new winter home ranks relatively low on his creative-cities indices. But it does score 11th in the nation for tolerance, a factor he says bodes well for the regions ability to attract and retain talent.
Florida says he and his wife have plunged into Miami life. Hes found it more complex than he expected, and at times more perturbing, especially the extremes of wealth and poverty.
He hopes to become publicly involved hes already spoken out against a plan for downtown casino, which he says would be a disaster. And he is talking to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation about launching an ideas event in Miami. One route to prosperity for the city, he says, could be as an intellectual incubator for Latin America.
Miami is for me a great laboratory, Florida says, citing not just Wynwood but also developer Craig Robins ambitious plans to remake the Design District into an urban luxury retail center as a milestone in the U.S. urban revival.
Can you create it? Thats whats uber-interesting to me. Wynwood and the Design Center are not great places like Georgetown or London. But there is an urban scale thats being rescued in a magnificent way. If these people in Miami can really do it, then you might be able to do it just about anywhere.