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MAYOR GRAHAM RICHARD

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Guest Column By Mayor Graham Richard

 

Richard Florida and the Creative Class here in Fort Wayne

In January I attended the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. During one of the round table discussions Richard Florida spoke with about 40 mayors from around the country. Florida is a Professor of Economic Development at Carnegie Mellon University and the author of an interesting book called The Rise of the Creative Class: And How Its Transforming Work, Leisure Community and Everyday Life.

One of the most interesting aspects of my discussion with Florida was his theory of the importance of the Three T's: technology, talent and tolerance. I am simplifying his theory, but Florida suggests that to thrive in the future a city must excel in three areas:

 

Encouraging technology advancements and growth in high-tech industry.

Attracting talented people or what he labels the "Creative Class."

Fostering an environment of tolerance and work to make people feel like they are welcome and are an integral part of the community.

I find Florida's theory very compelling. However, I think one "T" should be added to the list. That "T" is trust. I believe that working together in high trust high performance partnerships we can accomplish excellent results. The value of a community working together is critical to high quality cities.

The nature of Fort Wayne's economy is changing. Most notably, our City, like dozens of others in the United States, is moving from a manufacturing economy to technology and innovation economy. As the face of our economy takes on a new appearance, so does our community as a whole.

Florida said in a recent article in Washington Monthly, "... "creative professionals"—now comprise more than 30 percent of the workforce, up from about 10 percent in 1900 and only 20 percent as recently as 1980. Creative-sector workers today outnumber blue-collar workers. And the creative sector of the economy accounts for nearly half of all wage and salary income—$1.7 trillion dollars per year. The rise of the creative sector has also changed the way people work, as well as their expectations. The American Dream is no longer just about money. Better pay, a nice house, and a rising standard of living will always be attractive. But my research and others' show another factor emerging: The new American Dream is to maintain a reasonable living standard while doing work that we enjoy doing."

Fort Wayne has a strong tradition of creative thinking. The refrigerator, washing machine, gas pump, streetlight and magnet wire were all invented or patented in Fort Wayne. But many years have passed since those innovative ideas became everyday items. Today, we need to think about new ways to create wealth among Fort Wayne residents. It means moving further away from production and into the realm of intellectual property.

That is where the "creative class" makes its impact on the future of Fort Wayne. Florida believes that the creative class includes scientists, engineers, architects, designers, writers, artists and musicians. But if creativity or problem solving is a key component of your job, no matter what your profession, you are a member of the creative class.

Richard Florida's ideas go hand-in-hand with what is already happening in the Fort Wayne community. The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, Invent Tomorrow, the Downtown Improvement District and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance are all examples of working partnerships. This creative thinking will enhance economic development and improve our City.

Florida will be speaking at IPFW on March 18, 2003. He will share how job creation and economic development in the next decade will hinge on how we attract creative class workers and businesses. Please join us for this lively discussion.

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