Not everyone buys the creativity story

Creativity is, one might say, the new black. An increasingly fashionable urban-development script has it that a historically distinctive “creative economy” – powered by raw human talent, as cool as it is competitive – is displacing sclerotic, organization-era capitalism. The prime movers in this new new economy are members of the so-called Creative Class, a mobile elite whose finicky lifestyle preferences increasingly shape the geographies of economic growth.

The big promoter is professor Richard Florida:

Routinely overstated and hyperbolic, Florida’s essential argument is that human creativity has become the engine of early-21st Century economic development, such that the competitiveness of nations and cities is increasingly rooted in the capacity to attract, retain, and “nurture” talented individuals – the newly dominant factor of production.


Beneath the creative rhetoric, Florida presents a fairly familiar urban-economic development story: construct new urban governance networks around growth-oriented goals, compete aggressively for mobile economic resources and government funds, respond in formulaic ways to (imminent) external threats, talk up the prospects of success, and, whatever you do, don’t buck the market. The emphasis on the mobilization of elite policy communities around growth-first urban policy objectives is nothing new, but whereas the entrepreneurial cities chased jobs, the creative cities pursue talent workers; the entrepreneurial cities craved investment, now the creative cities yearn for buzz; while entrepreneurial cities boasted of their postfordist flexibility, the creative cities trade on the cultural distinction of cool.

See The Cult of Urban Creativity

(Update 2017: Richard Florida mostly admits he’s theories have been all wrong.)

And in Michigan, they’ve even got

Richard Florida might be on to something (the real world suggests his theory has not always worked so well) with the creative class and creative cities concept. But his tools are blunt. He lumps so many people into his “creative class”  that any sizable city gets labeled “creative”.  In fact, the whole country is basically “creative” (see map). Some example misfires in this approach are described. In his  approach, health care workers are a “creative class” so Spokane is a creative city.

As you can see, not everyone buys in to the creative class concept. But his point is valid:

a jobs strategy needs to start from a fundamental principle: That each and every human being is  creative and that we can only grow, develop, and prosper by harnessing the full creativity of each of us. For the first time in history, future economic development requires further human development. This means develop a strategy to nurture creativity across the board – on the farm, in the factory, and in offices, shops, non-profits, and a full gamut of service class work, as well as within the creative class. Our future depends on it.

Rethinking human capital, creativity and urban growth

We should add that members of the so-called ‘creative class’, i.e. individuals endowed with high levels of human capital are no doubt especially unlikely to shift location in the absence of relevant employment opportunities (which is not the same as saying that they are relatively immobile). These are individuals who have by definition invested considerable resources and time in acquiring know-how, skills and qualifications, and they are presumably unwilling to dissipate their investments in this respect by moving to places where their personal assets are systematically at risk or undervalued in the local job market. Such individuals typically choose to locate on the basis of some sort of structured match between their talents and the forms of economic specialization and labor demand to be found in the places where they eventually settle.


We acknowledge that cities are frequently intense foci of creativity in the sense that they are places that periodically generate technological innovations and economically useful knowledge, as well as new trends, sensibilities, fashions, perceptions and movements (Hall, 1998)

via Rethinking human capital, creativity and urban growth — J ECON GEOGR.

Older post relevant to this topic:

  • Spokane County job openings by required degree
    shows that area job openings for 4-year degree holders is typically in the range of 10% to 15% of openings (which is very low) and the demand for graduate trained workers is nil, around 2% to 4% of available jobs. Most of this small group, with graduate degreess work in health care or education.

Spokane Commercial Real Estate Vacancy Rates

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...

Image via Wikipedia

The Industrial vacancy rate fell to 15.43%. A sudden drop like that, absent any recent announcements in the media about something big opening up – is probably a data error or a change in methodology.

Good news is the drop in retail space. We will know if that trend is sticky by the time we get into January and past the Christmas selling season. The trend in retail and office space are both favorable.


As always, each firm’s estimate of vacancies is calculated in their own way and estimates vary between firms.