The Flight Of The Creative Class

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2005-03-23
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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Researchdriven and clearly written, bestselling economist Richard Florida addresses the growing alarm about the exodus of highvalue jobs from the USA. Today's most valued workers are what economist Richard Florida calls the Creative Class. In his bestselling The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida identified these variously skilled individuals as the source of economic revitalisation in US cities. In that book, he shows that investment in technology and a civic culture of tolerance (most often marked by the presence of a large gay community) are the key ingredients to attracting and maintaining a local creative class. In The Flight of the Creative Class, Florida expands his research to cover the global competition to attract the Creative Class. The USA once led the world in terms of creative capital. Since 2002, factors like the Bush administration's emphasis on smokestack industries, heightened security concerns after 9/11 and the growing cultural divide between conservatives and liberals have put the US at a large disadvantage. With numerous small countries, such as Ireland, New Zealand and Finland, now tapping into the enormous economic value of this class and doing all in their power to attract these workers and build a robust economy driven by creative capital how much further behind will USA fall?

Author Biography

Richard Florida is the Hirst Professor at George Mason University's School of Public Policy and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Table of Contents

1. The Flight of the Creative Class 1(24)
Part I: The Creative Age
2. Creativity Matters
3. The Open Society
Part II: The Global Competition for Talent
4. The Closing of America?
5. The New Competitors
6. Regions on the Rise
Part III: Losing Our Way
7. Creative Class War
8. Divided We Fall
9. Building a Creative Society
Appendix A: Global Creativity by the Numbers 271(10)
Appendix B: Measuring the Class Divide 281(14)
Notes 295(14)
Acknowledgments 309(4)
Index 313


The Flight of the Creative Class
The New Global Competition for Talent

Chapter One

The Flight of the Creative Class

Nothing is more revealing than movement.
—Martha Graham (1894–1991),
dancer and choreographer

In March of 2003, I had the opportunity to meet Peter Jackson, theAcademy Award–winning director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, at his film complex in lush, green, otherworldly Wellington, NewZealand. Jackson has done something unlikely in Wellington, a smallishbut exciting cosmopolitan city of roughly 400,000, and one certainlynot previously considered a global cultural capital. He has builta permanent facility there that is considered one of the world's mostsophisticated filmmaking complexes. And he did it in New Zealandfor a reason.

Jackson, a Wellington native, realized what many American citiesdiscovered during the 1990s: that paradigm-busting creative industries could single-handedly change the way cities flourish while drivingdynamic and widespread economic change. It took Jackson and hispartners a while to raise the resources, but they eventually purchasedan abandoned paint factory that, emblematic in its adaptive transformationand reuse, emerged as the studio responsible for the mostbreathtaking trilogy of films ever made. He realized, Jackson told me,that with the allure of the Lord of the Rings movies he would be ableto attract a diverse array of creative talent from around the world, enticingthe best cinematographers, costume designers, sound technicians,computer-graphic artists, model builders, editors, and animatorsto New Zealand.

Sure enough, during my visit to Wellington, I met dozens ofAmericans from universities such as the University of California atBerkeley and MIT working alongside talented filmmakers from Europeand Asia. Many had begun the process of establishing residencyin New Zealand, ready to relinquish their American citizenship forwhat they saw as greener creative pastures. One of them, a digitalwunderkind from the San Francisco Bay area, told me he was launchinghis new high-tech start-up in Wellington because of the technologyinfrastructure and environment there, which in his case createdadvantages that trumped even Silicon Valley. As we walked past aworld map with pins stuck in employees' native countries, the head ofdigital animation joked that the organization looked more like theUN than a film production studio.

Think about this. In an industry synonymous with America's internationaleconomic and cultural might, film production, the singlegreatest project in recent cinematic history was internationally fundedand crafted by the best filmmakers from around the world. But not inHollywood.

When Hollywood produces movies, it creates jobs for directors,actors, and key grips in California. Because of the astounding level oftechnical innovation required by films of Rings' magnitude —in areasfrom computer graphics and animation to sound design —such a projectalso germinates whole new companies, and even new nationwideindustries. George Lucas's Star Wars films, for instance, almost singlehandedlysparked the advancement of everything from video games to product tie-in marketing. The lion's share of economic benefitsfrom the Rings trilogy, though, is likely to accrue not to the UnitedStates but to New Zealand. In an equally mighty display of economicirony, Jackson's remake of King Kong is also being put together inWellington, with a budget running upward of $150 million.

Peter Jackson's accomplishment in tiny Wellington hasn't factoredinto any of the ongoing debates over global economic competitiveness.But the United States of America is now facing its greatest challengesince the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. This challenge haslittle to do with business costs and even less with manufacturingprowess. And, no, the main competitive threats are not China orIndia. Our country —for generations known around the world as theland of opportunity and innovation —may well be on the verge oflosing its creative competitive edge.

The core of this challenge is what I've come to see as the new globalcompetition for talent, a phenomenon that promises to radically reshapethe world in the coming decades. No longer will economic mightamass in countries according to their natural resources, manufacturingexcellence, military dominance, or even scientific and technologicalprowess. Today, the terms of competition revolve around a centralaxis: a nation's ability to mobilize, attract, and retain human creativetalent. Every key dimension of international economic leadership,from manufacturing excellence to scientific and technological advancement,will depend on this ability.

This new global competition for talent creates a serious threat tothe United States' long-standing economic hegemony on three overlappingfronts. First, a wide range of countries around the world areincreasing their ability to compete for global talent. Second, theUnited States is undermining its own ability to compete for that talent.And third, the U.S. is failing to cultivate and harness the full creativecapabilities of its own people in ways that position it to competeeffectively.

The global talent pool and the high-end, high-margin creative industriesthat used to be the sole province of the U.S. and the crucialsource of its prosperity have begun to disperse around the globe. Ahost of countries —Ireland, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Australia, and New Zealand among them —are investing in higher education, producingcreative people, and churning out cutting-edge products, fromcellular phones to computer software to blockbuster movies. Many ofthem have learned from the United States' success and are shoring uptheir efforts to attract foreign talent —including Americans. If even afew of these rising nations draw away, say, 2 percent each of America'screative workforce, the effect on our economy will be enormous. TheUnited States may well have been the Goliath of the twentiethcenturyglobal economy, but it will take just a half-dozen twenty-first-century Davids to begin to wear it down.

The Flight of the Creative Class
The New Global Competition for Talent
. Copyright © by Richard Florida . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent by Richard Florida
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