|Richard Florida -- see a release for more on his CC visit.|
The Rise of the Creative Class and What it Means to Economic Development
By Richard Florida
Author of "The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Every Day Life"
Nov. 10, 2004
[Introduction by CC President Richard Celeste]
Thank you so much Dick, and thanks to you and to Jacqueline, to the college, and sponsors, and all of our friends, particularly our old friends at Colorado Springs, and from other parts of Colorado. Lots of spectacular things are going on in this state, here in this town and in Denver and other places around the state. Thanks so much to the sponsors.
I just want to say something about your president, Dick Celeste. He said that he became governor of the State of Ohio in 1983, and there was a bad unemployment rate. And I was coming out of Columbia University with a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning - a field I chose because I figured if I couldn’t get an academic job, someone would hire me to do something for real - and I looked at that job market and said, “I have no hope.” Universities had their budgets frozen and no one was hiring, there were hiring freezes, they were laying off people, and I got a call from a department head at Ohio State University. And he said, “We at Ohio State University just started a new program because the governor said that we had to build excellent first-class universities in science and technology in our state.” And the reason I got my job as a professor and got to do this was because of Dick Celeste. So for that, I am eternally and truly grateful. And not only that, you know. Here I was a 27-year-old kid who knew nothing about nothing, and Dick opened his offices. He had his staff meet with me. I learned about how you incubate and transfer technology and went on to do studies with the venture capital industry, got access to the Honda Plant in Marysville, Ohio, and all of this stuff stemmed from those three years, 1984 to 1987, at Ohio State University. So, it kinda feels in a weird way like coming home.
Well, if you read the article in the paper and if you’ve read anything else or if you’ve googled me, you could see that this book, The Rise of the Creative Class, created a little bit of a controversy, and I didn’t expect it to. I wrote it as kind of a… I wrote about four other books, and none of them… I never even got to sign one of those, (Laughter) except for my mom. But this one started a big controversy, and you know, I have been accused of doing and being many things. I’ve been accused of having an agenda to support the artists and a cultural agenda with the bohemians of the world. I’ve been accused by some of my critics of having a gay and lesbian agenda… that my role in writing this book…that I wrote the whole book to promote the gay and lesbian agenda. But my favorite of all: my critics said that Richard Florida is single-handedly undermining the Judeo-Christian tradition and the American family. (Laughter and Applauding).
Like I said, it feels like I’m coming home, but I have to apologize. I had no arts and cultural agenda in mind when I wrote the book. I went to Rutgers College on a Garden State Scholarship, which is the only way my Italian parents would let me go away from home – if it was paid for. I studied business and economics … I didn’t even take a class in arts and culture in my whole undergraduate life. I had no arts and cultural agenda when I started to write this book. I never took a course on the American family. I never had a class in multicultural diversity. I had nothing to understand about gay and lesbian rights issues. I had no agenda about families and different things in mind. I wrote this book because of the things Dick and I used to talk about in Ohio, and talk about in Pennsylvania, and talk about in Michigan, and talk about in states and communities all over the country. Because I only have one subject that I’ve studied for 25 years now: How do you build and grow and renew prosperous and sustainable and innovative communities that pay people good wages and get people good jobs and allow them to support their families and raise their kids in the way they want. That’s my subject.
I’m a student of economic growth and development. I came to these other subjects – about the role of arts and culture, about the role of a community that’s open to all kinds of people, open to diversity, accepting of artists and poets and musicians, accepting of single people and young people and gay and lesbian people – only because I found out after knocking my head against the wall for a long time that these things really matter to our economy. Now, I’d like to say I learned that lesson in Ohio. But I only learned a little bit of that lesson in Ohio. I learned that lesson after living for 17 years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I moved to Pittsburgh in 1987, and I think we still had 14 and 15 and 20 percent unemployment. You see, Pittsburgh had once been a great industrial mecca. A hundred years ago, if you went to Pittsburgh, you’d think you were in Silicon Valley and Route 128 and Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Austin and Seattle all rolled into one.
We think of it as a steel town, but it wasn’t just a steel town. We had great steel companies: U.S. Steel and National Steel and Jones and Laughlin. All that stuff was there, but it had probably one of the three or four greatest electronics companies in American history, George Westinghouse Company… Westinghouse Electronics. It was good at all kinds of materials… what we now call materials. Alcoa was founded in Pittsburgh. Gulf Oil – from Pittsburgh. Rockwell Aerospace: founded in Pittsburgh. I was the Heinz Professor… No, I’m not gonna talk about Teresa… (Laughter). Maybe in the question and answer period… So obviously Pittsburgh was pretty good in ketchup and pickles, too…with the Heinz Company. And we had great technological institutions.
Somewhere in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as we know well, it all fell apart in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. Folks, we were the center of industrialization. Pittsburgh lost 150,000 jobs…150,000 blue-collar manufacturing jobs in a period of 2-3 years. The city of Pittsburgh had a population at its apex of 770,000. It is home today to 330,000 people. Our city is bankrupt, fiscally insolvent, and it’s the only place of its size in the country that’s lost population for five consecutive decades.
Now, on the mind of our city leaders was how do we rebuild that community, and they came up with a very innovative and powerful strategy, one that was right for its time. They said, “We lost these manufacturing jobs and these manufacturing plants. We deindustrialized, but what we have left over are the research and development laboratories.” Gulf, U.S. Steel, Westinghouse… all of these first-class research and development laboratories. And these spectacular universities. The University of Pittsburgh, where people like Jonas Salk did things like invent the polio vaccine, and others led the way in transplant medicine. And the place I taught for 17 years, Carnegie Mellon University, which, with all due respect to MIT and Stanford, is probably the greatest university of computer science and software in the world. So, folks thought, if we can build on that base of technology and combine the strengths of the university and link it with industry, we could rebuild our town and create a new kind of economy. Along with Ohio, which created its Edison centers by Dick Celeste, we created our Ben Franklin partnership. We created technology transfer and commercialization.
We began to invest in university and technology. We were a leader in business incubation and research and development parks, and we began to show tremendous successes. We created the world’s first high technology council, The Pittsburgh High Technology Council. The idea being to take those new ideas and new technologies coming out of the university and spin them off into companies. And I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but the way people say it is to build a “cluster.” We were gonna build that cluster of related high technology companies that was gonna power economic growth, and boy oh boy, it looked like we were succeeding. We created a long list of Carnegie Mellon spin-off companies just in the period of the 1980s and early 1990s. We created more than 100 spin-off companies. One you might not know about. There were two guys from Carnegie Mellon who founded this company with a buddy out at Berkeley. The Carnegie Mellon guys were named Khosla and Bechtolsheim. The Berkeley guy was named Bill Joy. That company we now know as Sun Microsystems, but they started the company – where? Not in Pittsburgh. They started it out on the west coast.
Like I said, I started at Carnegie Mellon in 1987, had moved there from Ohio, from Columbus. And by the early 1990s, we had created a slew of companies, but there was one in particular that we knew could change the way our town and our community was going to renew itself, because we created one of the first companies to define what we now know as the Internet search space. A company we created in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon that we invested in, that we used our R&D and technology, economic development infrastructure to create, to lure venture capital to, to spin off into a lovely building… The company’s name is Lycos. It was a spin-off of our university, and that company was doing everything that we had planned. It was employing our students. It was recruiting people to the region. It was becoming the core or catalyst of this cluster of companies. It was gonna function as that breeder kind of company that was gonna bring other companies and attract other companies and rebuild our high technology capability.
Well, I told you I started in 1987. By this time, it was 1994, and seven years is a magic number in the life of any college or university professor. No, I didn’t come up for tenure. (Laughter).
Seven years means sabbatical leave, doesn’t it? It means sabbatical, and like so many professors, I decided to take my sabbatical and go off to Harvard and work in the Kennedy School of Government. I didn’t go to the Arts Management Program, and I didn’t go to the Cultural Diversity Program, or the Center for Gay and Lesbian Affairs.
I took up residence in the Center for Science, Technology, and Public Policy, working with Harvey Brooks and Lewis Branscomb, the former vice president of IBM, the former head of the National Science Board on a project. Dick Celeste and Dick Thornberg and Chris Cowers and many of our other friends were working on how to rebuild American society and economy by incubating high tech industries for university industry partnerships. And we wrote a book – it wasn’t a best seller – called Industrializing Knowledge, where we looked at the best cases in the U.S. and in Europe, and we knew we had the model. Invest in technology, incubate university innovation, transfer it to industry, and build that cluster.
Just like any other morning, one day it was one of those nice, bright, Boston spring mornings. I drove my car into the parking garage at the Kennedy School. You got pretty nice things here at Colorado College, but the Kennedy School…with the fresh brewed espresso as you walk in the door. (Laughter). That was good. I got my espresso, and my copy of the Boston Globe, and I went into the office, and I opened that paper to a headline that changed my life. It changed the way I think about economic development in communities, in societies, about regional growth, and how countries develop. Because the headline in the paper that morning in the Business section read: “Lycos to move to Boston.” And I said to myself… I used the phrase in my head, I said… Well it wasn’t exactly this phrase I used. I said, “Holy moly!” “Holy moly” was the phrase I used…sort of…Holy moly… I have to understand what’s going on. So I called my friends at Lycos and I called my friends at Carnegie Mellon, all my friends in economic development in Pennsylvania, and I put my students on the case… my best students researching this, because I had to know why. Why was Lycos leaving, after all we did? After the model we built, after all the investment we made, after all the councils and activities we created, why was Lycos moving from my town, Pittsburgh to Boston?
In the field of economic development, there’s a dirty little secret that we all know. If you have the jobs, you’re gonna get the people, but we’re sometimes told, in order to get the jobs, you have to bribe the com… – use incentives, I mean. (Laughter). Use incentives to attract the company to your town. I knew the folks in Boston really well. I know Tom Menino. So I called the people in Boston. We didn’t offer a cent, they said. There were no financial incentives on the table for Lycos. Now I thought about this – and I hate to be controversial, but sometimes I have to be. In Pittsburgh, we had just pinned the hopes of our future on two bright, shinning, new baseball and football stadiums at the cost of $1 billion in public money. It couldn’t be that Fenway Park, the oldest baseball stadium in America, could be a better baseball stadium than our new Heinz Field, or the Pittsburgh National Park. Why was Lycos moving from Pittsburgh to Boston? There were no incentives on the table.
If the baseball field, the incentives, all the things that we’re supposed to know about economic development, didn’t work, then what was going on? The answer to that came back floored me. In the words of the people who created Lycos: “We’re moving to Boston to gain access to an existing pool of talented and creative and knowledgeable people who are already in Boston.” They said it would take years, it would take decades, to lure those people to Pittsburgh, and I knew they were right, ‘cause for years I had tried to attract assistant professors and post-docs and graduates students to Carnegie Mellon, and what did they tell me? “Carnegie Mellon is the best place to do our research, and it’s certainly better than the $12,000 a year post-doc I have at Berkeley, but I’m not moving to Pittsburgh.”
Those talented and knowledgeable people were already in Boston, and here’s what struck me. In all of my writing and all of my research and everything I taught my students, in all the classes I had organized, not just in my work, but in the entire field of economic development, there is one truism. Whether you’re an academic, an intellectual, a graduate student, or somebody who does this for a living, you work at a mayor’s office, you work at a chamber of commerce, you work for a governor: you have those jobs. You have those good high-paying jobs. And if you can get those good high-paying jobs, the people will surely come. As we all know… The people, right? That’s the basic message of economics. People follow jobs. People respond to financial incentives. If you put that financial carrot in front of them and that financial incentive, they’re gonna come to the where the highest paid. We go to the place of highest financial return.
But not in the case of Lycos. Not in the case of Pittsburgh. Instead of the people moving to the jobs, like we assume they’re supposed to, something very strange had happened. The jobs picked up and left and moved to the people – and that was the “holy moly” that went right off in my head. Something very different was happening here, and I had to know why. So that’s when I dug in my heels and I said, “I’m gonna try to figure this out,” and for the next five years I started work on this project that would lead to The Rise of the Creative Class. I began to interview… I see someone with their hand up…
(Comment then Applauding). Consider it asked. Okay. I thought there… Well, never mind. I’m just glad to know my fly isn’t open. (Laughter). Whew!…
And so for the next five years, I dug in my heels and said I had to know why. And what I did, just to be honest with everyone who’s a student, my first research strategy was to talk to every waitress and waiter and bartender I could meet and ask them why they picked the places they lived and worked, and people would go to restaurants with me and say, “Rich… We can’t go with you anymore.”
My second strategy was to ask my students. This made perfect sense, because students, like you guys who are students, are constantly making location decisions. So you might be in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon or Colorado Springs in Colorado College, wherever you are, but you’re thinking, I came here to school, but I have to make a location decision soon. What a great sample. What a great little laboratory. You have students who are making decisions, and I asked students, and what they started to tell me just blew my mind about how a location decision is actually made by someone who’s presented with making a decision about a career and work and a decision about a place to live.
And then I got a little money. You know where I got the money, to tell you the truth? A bunch of old ladies in Pittsburgh were really concerned that all their kids had moved away and didn’t want to come back, and they were married to all the rich people, and all the rich guys thought all this was bullshit… I mean nonsense. (Laughter). But the women said, “No, no, no. We want our kids to come back.” And they got the local foundation to give me some money, and so then I could do real focus groups, cause they wanted their kids to come home. And then…by the way, I need to tell you guys this. This is a secret. I’ve done this research…I’ve done these presentations now for more than two years. Almost every time I do a presentation like this, a woman will come up to me who’s in her 50s or 60s and say, “Now I understand better why my son or daughter talks to me and tells me about what they do.” Not once has a father ever said that, and that tells you something deep about the nature of American society.
But anyway, then I could do some interviews and focus groups and really talk to people and get some comparative data, and then, because I taught at Carnegie Mellon, where we all were geeks, we did all the statistical research, regression analysis. and correlation analysis. Well, my really good students and colleagues did a lot of that…but anyway I’ll tell you about it.
So, some of you have the book. I saw you carrying it, and I saw these wonderful people selling it out there. If you have the book, you already know this, and if you buy the book, you’re gonna find this out. It’s about 450 pages. It’s got about 100 pages of statistical appendices and tables. If you put that thing on your bedside table, it will be the best two weeks of sleeping you have ever had.
So, in 45 minutes or so, let me tell you the three main conclusions of the book… save you from that pain, although this may indeed be as painful… save you from that pain, and let me say this. I’m not gonna talk all that much about Colorado Springs. I’m just gonna try to lay out my idea, talking a little bit about it. Then I not only encourage the responders to bring this up and try to apply it – because they know the town much better than I do, and the community and the region – but I encourage all of you to ask questions, and I mean not just softball questions, really hard questions about whether you think these ideas make sense. And if you don’t think they make sense, make sure you say so, because I’m an academic and an intellectual, so I wanna know, and I like to be challenged, because that’s the only place new ideas come from, is from the give and take. That’s what doing science or being an intellectual is all about. It’s about the give and take. It’s not just accepting someone else’s conventional wisdom. And if you think these things are… you can apply ‘em or want to apply ‘em, let’s talk about that. But let me first lay out my theory.
Okay. Well, the first thing I kinda figured out… the first main finding of the book – it should be self-evident to you given what I just said – is that this whole notion that companies, business, firms, power economic growth, where the economic growth is just about jobs, is very narrow. Now, companies and jobs are really important. I’m not saying they’re not. In academic life, we would say they are a necessary but insufficient condition to grow your economy. There’s something else that has to be added to the formula, and that’s what my book tried to do. So, in a nutshell it said, “In addition to attracting companies and creating jobs, you have to attract people.” You have to harness people’s creative energy, and you have to bring people into the mix.
People are the real stuff of economic development. That’s what my book’s really about. It’s about how people make economies grow, how we are the motor force of the economic engine. So I broke it down to a simple formula. I called it the 3 Ts of economic growth, and the paper talked about it. You need to be a technology, talent, and tolerance region. That’s the three Ts: Technology, Talent, and Tolerance. Of course you gotta attract companies, you gotta grow companies, you gotta invest in technology, you’ve gotta upgrade universities, research and development, and all that stuff. But if you just do that, you won’t have sustainable growth. I know that. I lived in Pittsburgh. We were a technology meca. We had all the great technology, we had all the labs, we had the great universities, and we lost it all, because we weren’t the kind of place that could attract talent or even retain the second T of talent that we had. What’s the great export of places like Pittsburgh or Cleveland? It’s no longer steel. It’s no longer cars from Detroit. It’s the export of talented and creative people to all over the country.
In order to be a place that attracts talent and retains talent, you’ve got to do the third T. You’ve gotta be tolerant, because people come in two genders, a variety of races and ethnicity, all sorts of ages, all sorts of outlooks, all sorts of family orientations and sexual orientations. And the places that win are the ones that are most open to the most kinds of people. So you gotta do the three Ts. And the book argues when you do those three Ts, then you become a creative center. It’s not enough anymore to have raw materials. It’s not enough anymore to have big ports or big factories. It’s not enough even to have big buildings. You’ve gotta be able to attract and mobilize this creative energy that comes from people, and at the bottom of that lies an ethical change in our economy. I mean this is the big stuff. This is a big change. This isn’t just a change from industrial to a tech economy. This isn’t about just the rise of knowledge and information.
The change we are living through today is a change in our economy and our society that I would argue is bigger in scale, scope, and impact than the shift from an agricultural to an industrial economy 100 years ago. And, as you learned, that shift from an agricultural to an industrial economy changed not only the organization of work and the way factories were organized – it gave us the rise of giant urban centers…big cities. It changed the nature of the way we perceive and use time, brought with it things like the punch card and the clock – the use of the clock to manage time. The scientific management of work, the change in the way we organize our communities, moving from far out to urban centers, changes in the very fabric of our lives, waves of immigration in the fabric of our lives.
The shift we are going through today from an industrial to a creative economy, I would argue, is bigger than that. Let me just give you a few facts. At the turn of the last century, in the year 1900, about 50 percent of all Americans worked on farms, smaller percentage 20 percent worked in factories, some worked in services. Less than 5 percent of all of us worked in what I call the creative sector of the economy. That’s science, engineering, technology, entrepreneurship, arts, culture, music, design, literature, writing, journalism and the knowledge-based professions…health, law, finance, and education. By the year 1950, our economy had totally transformed. Agricultural production was 5 percent of our workforce. Manufacturing, blue-collar work, the industrial sector of the economy accounted for more than 50 percent of workers in the United States, and in places like Pittsburgh and Cleveland, 65 or 75 or 80 percent of the economy. The creative piece, the creative sector, still accounted for less than 10 percent of all work done.
Beginning in 1980 to the present day, in those intervening two decades – almost 25 years now – our economy has gone through a tectonic shift, and it’s not just the rise of high-tech and knowledge. It’s not just the rise of innovation and information. We’ve moved from an industrially-based economy to an economy where creativity, where human creativity, the ability of humans to create new products and processes, new ideas, new forms of entertainment, new ways of providing goods and services, has become the fundamental source of economic value. The fundamental source of where wealth comes from in our economy.
In that intervening period, from 1980 to the year 2000, and now to 2004, the U.S. economy generated 20 million new jobs in the creative sector of the economy. Again, that’s science, entrepreneurship, technology, engineering, research and development, arts, culture, music, the creative occupations, the knowledge-based professions. Today, 40 million Americans work in the creative sector of the economy – the book calls it the creative class – forty million Americans. The creative sector of the economy is bigger in number and in percentage terms than the entire industrial sector of the economy. Yet most of our leading politicians, business analysts, and economists still refuse to accept that it exists. You don’t see any leading indicators of the creative economy. You see the leading indicators of manufacturing and productivity. It’s as if we are stuck in the economy of 1920 or 1950. One last statistic to show you how big this change is. If you add up all the wages and salaries paid in the United States today – all of them – and you divide the economy into three sectors: the service sector, the manufacturing sector, and the creative sector… The creative sector of our economy accounts for 50 percent of all wages and salaries paid in the U.S. today. That’s $1.7 trillion.
And we are at the infancy of this age. This age is just beginning. We are in a period like the early 1900s, like the 1920s, when the industrial economy was moving and emerging and coming to the fore, when new industries like steel and autos and electronics and chemicals were being created, but we didn’t yet have a fully blown industrial society. We have a creative economy without a creative society now, and that’s changing the way we live. I talked about that…changing the way we work, changing our conceptions of leisure time, changing the way the kind of communities and our demography.
But I’ll tell you what’s even more important, and this is part of the new book. Just like the rise of the industrial economy, the creative economy is no panacea for the myriad social and economic ills that confront this country. The creative economy is exacerbating income and equality. It’s making it worse, just like the rise of the industrial economy created a class of robber barons who could conspicuously consume, and also an impoverished group of workers who toiled, unable to even support themselves and their family. Housing has become unaffordable, as many of the younger people know – at its worst in the very mecas of the creative economy. San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Boston… all the places we point to as the technology hotspots are the most economically unequal and the most unaffordable, and the new book talks about this.
The task, then, is to complete the creative society, and not just build a creative economy – right here in Colorado Springs, even. It’s not about building a creative economy, it’s not about high technology, it’s not about just innovating. It’s about building a fully creative society. That’s the task in front of us. Now, how do I know about this? Well, let me tell you just one more thing about creativity. This is very important. We’re not just talking about high tech industries in arts and culture when we talk about the creative economy. We’re talking about the transformation of each and every facet of our economic lives. Creativity is not just about these high-tech industries. Every industry is becoming creative. Each and every industry, from manufacturing to services, each and every thing we touch, the economic value comes from its creativity.
I didn’t learn this from a book. I didn’t learn this from doing research. I didn’t learn this from doing interviews or statistical studies. I learned this from my dad. My dad’s name was Louis Florida. He was born in 1921 in Newark, New Jersey, to Italian immigrant parents, and if you do the mathematics, the formula of my father’s life, you see that his life coincided with some of the epochal events of the past century. My dad was born in 1921. That means he turned 13 in 1934. My dad never got to take a sabbatical and go to Harvard. My dad never got to go to college. In fact, my dad never got to go to one day of high school, because at age 13, in 1934, on the day he could get a work permit, he went to work in a factory in Newark, New Jersey, to help support his seven brothers and sisters. The factory’s name was Victory Optical. It’s a factory in Newark’s ironbound section, the down neck section, that made eyeglasses. So my dad worked there for a few years, until Pearl Harbor happened, and then, with all of his friends in the factory, he marched down to the enlistment station and enlisted and became an infantry soldier. D-Day. Normandy. All the great battles of World War II, he saw them all, and he came back after the war and he moved back to Newark, New Jersey, and – guess what? He went back to work in the very same factory, Victory Optical. After a few years working in the factory, he went ice skating in the park one day, Branch Brook Park in Newark, and he met my mom, and they got married, and they had two boys – to which they gave great Italian names: Richard and Robert. (Laughter) Classic Italian names.
My parents suburbanized. They moved to North Arlington. Now, if you don’t know where North Arlington is – some of you are familiar with New Jersey – it’s Exit 15-W, and has a peculiar individualized smell. It’s very close to the Meadowland Sports Complex. Well, if you don’t know New Jersey geography, all you gotta do is put on the Sopranos any Sunday night, and it’s the first place Tony drives through. (Laughter). And when I was growing up, I talked like this… “Eh, ahh… It’s nice here in Colorado Springs. Beautiful stuff with the cards and the...” So I went to college, and I had to learn how to speak English, which was very important. As a young boy growing up, I was the little kid who had to get eyeglasses at two years old because I couldn’t see very well. So I was fascinated by the eyeglasses I had to wear and the fact that my father worked at an eyeglass factory. So almost every day I would bug my dad and say, “Dad would you take me to work? Can I see where you work? Can I go to the factory?” And we didn’t have like take-your-son-to-work day, right, in those days, and he would say, No, no, no, you have to get an education and you have to get ahead and you have to do all these good things and move up, and I would beg. So the only way my dad could get around this would be on Saturdays, when the plant was running overtime.
My dad had by this time worked his way up from a regular worker to a foreman – the one who manages a workgroup – to one of the managers of the entire plant. And he would relent on Saturdays, and he would give in…and anyway, he wanted me to learn how to play an instrument, cause he never got the chance, and he bought me a guitar. My guitar lessons were in Newark. So he’d say: “Come on with me to the factory, and then we can go after work, cause it was a half day, running overtime, and I’ll take you to your guitar lessons in Newark.” And I would go to the factory, and I was fascinated cause my dad worked there, and it was filled with all of this energy, and the people were…there were Italians, my dad knew a little Italian. There were Puerto Rican people, he knew a little Spanish. There were Germans, he knew a little German. All this rush of action and energy and I would see these machines… machine tools cutting metal and shaping and grinding and electroplating vats where they would plate the metal frames and plastic injection molding machines where the plastic frames were made, and I would be fascinated. I would go to grab the machine and I’d want to touch it. So my dad would grab me by the shoulder. He’d say, “Rich, the machines aren’t what make this factory great. It’s the knowledge. It’s the intelligence. It’s the creativity of these people who work here that allow us to make money and sell these frames and support all of our families. The people are what’s important.”
Well, like I said, my dad made eyeglasses and I wore eyeglasses at two. My glasses were a part of my life, and some of you are enough to remember when these were the only kinda eyeglasses you could wear, they were the plastic black clunky jobs. You know what I’m talking about? Buddy Holly wore them in the 50s. If you’re younger, although he’s now older, Elvis Costello… He used to wear ‘em…before he met Diana Krall and he upscaled the eyeglasses. (Laughter). You know, they’re coming in. So you see some of the kids wearing them, the artsy kids wearing them black clunkers today. I had to wear those darn things everyday as a little kid, and… Well, they cost eight or nine or ten bucks, and you went to the local optometrist, then the prescription was filled. You wore ‘em and you saw better.
I brought my eyeglasses with me tonight. I hope you like them. (Laughter)…inspired by Sally Jessie Rafael. Red is not really my color, but when I saw them, I had to have them because they were red, and well I bought them at the… can you believe… in Pittsburgh… the Eyetique… the Eyetique, I bought them at. And they were red and they look like the plastic clunkers. They did. They look like the glasses I had to wear that my father made when I was a little kid. And I said, “I have to have ‘em,” and then I looked at the price. (Laughter). Well, they weren’t eight bucks, they weren’t ten, 20, 30, they weren’t 40, 50 times that even… more than 50 percent… $8…50 times more… $8. And I still said, “Well, they’re gonna be a great prop for when I speak, so I gotta have these guys. Really, I said I have to have them because they’re so interesting, and then I got to thinking, “What the hell am I paying for? What am I paying for in these eyeglasses?” Because there’s less material in these eyeglasses than my dad’s eyeglasses. They’re featherweight. They’re actually made of magnesium. There’s practically no material at all, and they’re very well made. The hinge work and everything is just spectacular, but there’s less actual physical labor… manufacturing labor in this eyeglass than my father’s. There’s much less… This is an automated, robotized, high-tech, high-performance factory, and I can’t see any better than with my father’s. I don’t see any better. It’s not like they magically make me see better. So it’s… What am I paying for?
Well these eyeglasses are made by Theo of Belgium. They’re made by Theo of Belgium… in Belgium, by Theo of Belgium, and as luck would have it, I show up one day to do a speech in Antwerp, and guess who’s in the audience… (Laughter)… Theo. When you open the case to my eyeglasses, the case says “Theo loves you.” (Laughter)… Oh, it gets better. So when I met Theo, I told him the story… I said, “What am I paying for?” He said, “You have the magnesium Theos.” He calls his glasses Theos. He says, “You have the wrong case. The case should say, Theo really loves you.” (Laughter). Now I know what I’m paying for… The love of Theo. (Laughter).
What I’m really paying for, though, seriously, is the talent, the knowledge, the creativity, the design…
[End of Audio Tape 1, Side 1]
Richard Florida: …the innovation that went into these things. The creativity is what we’re paying for – whether it’s in eyeglasses, or cars, food and wine, so many things that we need or want in life, we’re paying for the creativity. It’s not just eyeglasses.
Now, the Wall Street Journal I read occasionally, but sometimes they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this one issue of the Wall Street Journal – the picture in it – says it just perfectly. I can say it no better than this picture. It was an article on the renovation of homes, and how it’s caught on with people, and here’s the picture: A fellow about my age has a suit coat on. His tie is loosened. He’s sitting on a stool. His wife, or significant other, very relaxed, has her hair pulled back. She’s got a dress or a blouse with pearls on, and they’re in front of their newly renovated kitchen, and here’s what you see…that beautiful stove with all the knobs and the burners and the big hood and the granite top on it, and they’re sitting there so proud. And on top of those granite countertops are Chinese take-out containers (Laughter).
The most basic invention of all of humanity, the cooking stove, has become a fashion accessory…and a very expensive one, let me tell you. Hey, if you don’t know what these babies cost, let me tell you what the package… I’m not even gonna say what the package of appliances cost. The cooking stove, the most elemental thing to cook your food… from the eyeglasses we wear, to the handbags or briefcases we carry, to the appliances we store and cook our food in, the cars we drive, the restaurants we eat at. Look at that…The Whole Foods thing, the grocery store where the guy serving cheese has to have a PhD in Cheese Science…the wines we drink, the food we eat. I can’t think of an element of human existence where the value anymore comes from the materials, or the physical labor, or the factory, or the mine, or the well, or the port. It comes from the human content, the creative content, the knowledge content, the intellectual content. That’s where it comes from, and you see it in software and in biotechnology, which are purely industries of the mind, but it’s there in every industry as well.
Economic value no longer comes from the natural resources, or the raw materials, or the factory buildings. It comes from human creativity, which brings me to the second main point. I gotta underline this and emphasize this and highlight it. You see, this creative economy is so different than any other kind of economy, because it’s no longer physically bounded. It no longer depends on the quality of the soil or the resources beneath the soil or how big you can build something with industrial might. It depends on only one thing. Only one thing creates long lasting economic value, what we call competitive advantage, competitive economic advantage. It isn’t this factor of production that you inherit from the earth. It comes from one thing and one thing only… people.
Human beings are the real source and the fundamental source of economic growth. This thing called creativity comes from people. We, all of us, are the only economic factor that matters, and the curious thing about human beings in contrast to all other factors of production is that we can pick where we want to live and work and make our lives. So we are a very fickle, a very finicky, and a very mobile economic factor, and in order to grow and develop, that human component is the critical one.
Now, let me make this – for folks who might work for chambers or economic development, who are interested in this, f6r economics majors – 3et me even make this a little plainer. So much of what we do and talk about economic growth and how you make a community stronger, or its state stronger, or a country stronger… We say you gotta have a competitive business client. You gotta have low cost of production. You’ve gotta have efficient regulation. You’ve gotta have easy permitting. You’ve gotta have a government that gets out of the way and doesn’t tax people and the whole race to create a business climate. But the most successful places in the world, they’re the highest cost places in the world. It’s San Francisco, it’s New York, it’s…Boston, Washington, D.C. So costs are only part of the equation, and a business client is only part of the equation. What I’d like to say and what I’d suggest to all of you… Yeah you gotta have a good business climate, but don’t sweat too much about it. If you want to make yourself different, if you want to add economic value, if you want to make Colorado and Colorado Springs more effective, build the world’s best people climate. The people climate is what really matters, cause the economic winners are the ones that can attract and retain and harness the creative energy of human beings.
Now, let me just give you one little example… kind of a funny story. So right before the book came out, I was invited to address the National Governors Association in Washington, D.C., at their annual meeting, in this big boardroom, and it’s 50 governors, and all their economic policy chiefs of staff assembled there. I hadn’t written any bestselling book. I had very limited public speaking experience, virtually none except teaching classes, and I was scared out of my wits. I was scared to death about what I would say to this group of people? What could I tell them? They didn’t know who the heck I was…Thank God, my guardian angel was looking over my shoulder that day, because the person who gave the morning keynote address was Carly Fiorina, the chairperson and CEO of Hewlett-Packard at the time. And what she said to the governors made my job really easy, cause she said: “governors, keep your tax breaks, keep your industrial incentives, keep your financial incentive plans, all of this infrastructure you think we need, and you’re gonna build us all of these highway interchanges and roadways, keep all that stuff. When we make a decision of where to locate one of our facilities, we have one criteria in mind: We go where the highly skilled and creative people are. End of story.” It’s people that matter.
Let me just take this one notch further, and I have to disabuse a misunderstanding of the book, not only by my critics… My critics pick on this, but even some of the proponents of this view fall into the trap, and let me tell you what the trap is. “Okay, we like Richard’s ideas. We like this idea of the creative class. We want to do it.” …Let me tell you what the critics say. What the critics say is: “You can’t build an economy on the backs of guys with ripped T-shirts playing rock guitar in the middle of the street.” That’s what the critics say, but the proponents get this and they say, “Okay, we’re gonna turn Colorado Springs into…Oh, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna have a little latte bar over here and we’re gonna have a music venue over here, and then over here we’re gonna have three rock galleries, and if we put that altogether and put an ultimate Frisbee frill at the end of it and a bike path, then we’re gonna have the place that’s crea…” It’s like, build the stadium for the baseball team, the baseball team will come. That’s not what the book says, and I wanna really, really stress this with you. I told you, I learned about this from my father. I learned about this from studying Japanese auto plants in places like Marysville, Ohio. What did those Japanese companies do? Why did they beat the pants off GM and Ford and Toyota? Cause they saw the guys on the factory floor, the regular factory Joe, the regular blue-collar factory worker as the source of the ideas and the intelligence and the knowledge and the continuous improvement. Those steel mills in the Midwest that are continuous rolling mills, which turn out a sheet of steel in 12 minutes. That whole process was put together by people toiling on the factory floor, not by some great R&D engineer at Carnegie Mellon.
Every single human being is creative. That’s the message in The Rise of the Creative Class. Each and every one of us, each and every human being has this creativity, just like the Japanese company saw on the factory floor, when Lee Iacocca and our industrial leaders said, “The heck with that. We know better. We have the MBAs and the engineer. The hell with these factory grunts.” What did Mr. Matsushi say, Mr. Toyota say? “We will beat you in the industrial competition because we know the power that comes from tens of thousands of human minds… human minds in our factory. We’re gonna tap the knowledge intelligence of real people.” Each and every one of us is creative. What a waste. It’s not just a moral thing. It’s not just a socially injustice. Of course, it’s that. But what an economic waste that 60 percent of our people do not participate in the creative economy, and guess what? A lot of the creative energy that we need comes from… Let me say… We’re the college, and we think if we do everything right in a college, in a university… If we have great liberal arts education and great business schools, we’re gonna solve… and the great innovators are gonna come out, and I hate to say this because I teach at a college and I know how important this is. But if you go down the list of the greatest innovators in American history, one thing sorta slaps you in the face, whether it’s Gates or Allen or jobs in Wozniak or Michael Dell… What did Michael Dell do? The great story of him dropping out of the University of Texas and going to the fraternity house to build his company. All of these people are college dropouts. (Laughter).
As my friend, Tom Sokolowski, from whom I’ve learned a ton, who runs the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh and who I had the honor of serving on the board for several years, as he said: “Great artists aren’t made in a museum.” Great artists are never made in a museum. Great art is made by working artists who work in cheap buildings, in loft buildings, in studios. Music… Great music wasn’t made in those magnificent symphonic halls. Great music is made by people in garages forming bands and forming combos and learning how to compose music and maybe going to school and learning more about it and honing their craft. So much of this creative energy comes from the streets. Where does the music and entertainment and all of the things that the fine art culture come from?
Here’s the best. A meeting with the members of Tony Blair’s cabinet. We want to build Professor Florida’s thing here in England. Sorry, I don’t do an English accent good. I’m not even gonna try. We want to build high-tech clusters of industry and biotech and aerospace and robots and all of this stuff, and we’re gonna do this, and we’re gonna make England competitive. And I said to them, who are the richest people in England? Oh, they said, “That would be Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney and Elton John.” I’m like, “What the hell are you guys talking about.” If you only begin to understand the creative energy of people and you begin to organize some efforts to support musical… Instead of saying that’s an afterthought. “Well we can organize semiconductor and software and biotech.” What if we made even half the effort to do this with music? And more than that, every single one of us is creative, each and every one of us. And creativity defies all the social categories that we have imposed on ourselves over the past hundreds of years, the past millennium. Creativity doesn’t care a hoot about you. It comes equally in men and women. Creativity doesn’t care about race. Creativity doesn’t know anything about race. Creativity doesn’t know anything about ethnicity. It doesn’t care where you were born.
My new book, The Flight of the Creative Class, just a little snippet. What does it say? Americans are no smarter than anyone else. We don’t have anymore raw materials than the Russians or other big countries or the Australians. Americans don’t have any unique Yankee ingenuity. What made America great is that it attracted the best and brightest people from all over the world. It was the open society before we knew what an open society was. It’s the place that talented immigrants… some of them great scientists fleeing religious and persecution, people like Einstein and Fermi. Others, just regular people… Italians and Slavs and Poles and Germans and Hispanics and Latinos and Mexicans, all coming here to have a better life. So it doesn’t know anything about ethnicity or race. Creativity doesn’t care about how rich your mom or dad were. It doesn’t care if you come from a rich family. It doesn’t matter. You can’t buy it. You can’t hand it down to your kids. It doesn’t care what kind of family you came from. It doesn’t care what income you have. It doesn’t care what kind of family you want to build. It doesn’t care a hoot about your sexual orientation, and that’s why I say the places that are the most open, the places that are most dollared, the places that are the most aggressively inclusive get a huge additional economic edge. It’s not just about the technology and the knowledge in the human capital.
So this other factor – tolerance, diversity, proactive inclusivity – that adds a lot of economic power because it means you’re the place that more and different kinds of people will seek out. When they’re running away from the places they can’t be themselves in. You don’t know where the next Billie Holiday, or Albert Einstein, or Thomas Edison, or Bill Gates, or Andy Warhol, or Jimi Hendrix is gonna come from. And nine times out of ten, they’re gonna surprise you. What did I always say in Pittsburgh? Who was one of our greatest contributors to modern society? Andy Warhol. A kid, working class Polish kid, eastern European kid from the ghettos, from the Slovak and Polish ghettos of Pittsburgh. When they asked me how to do you rebuild Pittsburgh…they would say, “Well Rich, what do we really do to rebuild Pittsburgh? We need more incubators, we need more of this…” I’d say, “You know when I’m gonna know that we turned the corner?...When we rename our airport the Andy Warhol International Airport,” because that’s what Andy did. But he had to leave his hometown to do it, because he couldn’t be who he was here. He couldn’t be Andy Warhol in Pittsburgh. They’d never let him be Andy Warhol in Pittsburgh. He had to go to New York City to become Andy Warhol, because he could be Andy Warhol there. I stopped getting invited to things about the third time I said that, by the way. Instead, we named it the Tom Forrester Politically Corrupt Democratic Machine Airport. That’s for our purposes only. I know all of you know who Tom Forrester is, our county commissioner. Sorry, so creativity is the economic motor force, and creativity comes from people which leads me to the third basic point in The Rise of the Creative Class, and probably the reason we’re all here.
How do you organize and move… How do you organize to be successful? How do you put this together in your own lives, or in your town? How do you put it together to make this work in reality? In there, the book says something that’s a little bit con… even more controversial. It says that the motor force of this creative economy is no longer the company. It’s no longer the industrial corporation. The industrial corporation, the big man – that’s General Motors, General Electric, IBM… Remember it stood not for International Business Machines…it meant I’ve Been Moved. You went where the company told you. You worked for the company for life. The company organized. “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” The company… The big mammoth company organized our entire national life. People stayed in their jobs for life… for the industrial society. The industrial corporation was the basic social and economic building block, but it isn’t anymore.
My dad worked for the same company, Victory Optical, from the day he turned 13 to get a work permit to the day he turned 65, and he left that place with joy on his face. My dad took up work in the health club. That was… He worked in the health club. He said that was the best job he ever had after that and retiring. More than 50 years with the same company. You know what the average American… Do you know how long the average American worker stays in a job today? It’s less than three years. An American under the age of 30… Do you know how long that American stays on a job today? On average, in any job, less than one year. How do you match these people to work? Now some of my critics say, “Oh Florida, Ahhh! That’s bologna. Professor Florida has a flaw in his theory. If you look at the basic fundamentals, he has a problem with the chicken and the egg.” What comes first, the chicken or the egg, the jobs or the people? As one of my dear friends who practices economic development said, “Florida’s okay. He’s fine, but if you have the jobs, you can buy all that creative arts and diversity BS.” And they know what comes first.
If you have the jobs, everything else follows. Now, I’m here to tell you two things about that idea. First, when they start saying that, you’ve identified a very important category of person. This is a very important category of person. Now I’m gonna tell how I know this. I didn’t figure this out myself. Someone much smarter than me figured this out and told me. Her name is Jane Jacobs. Jane Jacobs is the most important person to ever write on American society and cities. Her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961 - Jane is now 87 - told us more than four decades ago about what we need to do, and nobody got it. They ran her out of New York City. They called her names, and now they finally have come back to accept her, and certainly in her hometown of Toronto and many cities across the country and world. Well, Jane said to me when I asked her this chicken-and-egg question, she said, “Rich, Richard, listen. Every one of the towns you go to has creative people. Human beings are by nature creative. They by nature care about their neighbor. They by nature care about their community. They by nature want to do the right thing. They by nature want to get involved… artists, poets, musicians, scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers, college people, faculty members, students, even new immigrants. They want to get involved in the stuff in their community…
“But there’s another group of people in these towns.” These are the people who say, “It’s the chicken and the egg.” She gave them a name. She called them squelchers. They are the squelchers, she said, and the squelchers are the ones who say, “There’s a chicken and egg problem. What we have to do is create the jobs. Forget this bologna about the arts. Diversity… Who cares about that? That doesn’t matter in our town if we have – “ They’re still saying it in Pittsburgh, bankrupt. Without a penny in the coffers, they’re still saying it. With airlines closing – the billion dollar airline U.S. Air just pulled out…but we’re still gonna do it. We don’t want to mess with this stuff. We don’t want to recognize Andy Warhol. My God, he’s weird. If we just have those good jobs, we’re gonna prosper. Good luck, cause the thing is, it ain’t a dilemma. There is no chicken and egg dilemma. The chicken and the egg go together, and they come together in a place… the town, the community, the region. Colorado Springs solves the chicken and egg dilemma right there in the places where the chicken and egg, the jobs and the people, come together.
What do companies tell us? What did Carly Fiorina say? Why did Lycos move from Pittsburgh to Boston? The answer is right there. We want a pool of available talented people who go to work and be creative and add value. What did the people I interviewed tell me? People aren’t dumb. This is the first thing that most of us who teach and do re… You have to understand that people will tell you what’s right. Now you can’t just stick in the data and the numbers. Go out and talk to people. They’ll tell you, and what do people tell us? We won’t move to a town for a job. We want to move to a town that has lots of jobs, and different kinds. We know that first job’s gonna go away in three, or four, or five years or even a year. We want to move to a town that we can have another job and another job. We want to move to a town or a region that offers economic opportunity. What did they use to say about the Bay area? It’s the kind of place where you could change your job without changing your parking space. (Laughter). There’re are so many jobs around, you just walk down the hall and you get another one.
We call that a thick labor market. The kind of place that’s gonna prosper economically has to have a thick labor market, but we weren’t done yet. Oh no. I had to probe the other characteristics of place. Why were people moving to some places? Why were people moving to San Francisco and Austin and Seattle and away from Cleveland and Pittsburgh and to places like that… In Seattle? Why were some places becoming these poles for talent attraction, and other places not? And here’s where the shock… Now, here I was, a 40-year-old conventional economic development student who bought all the stuff that we’re talking about. Here I go into my first interview and focus group session. You have to understand, I’m pretty darned conventional. I have no idea what’s going on. I’m going into it with an open mind, then I start asking people, especially young people graduating colleges and focus groups. We start to ask them, “How do you pick a place to live and work?” Young people, and we’re assuming they want a good economic opportunity, and I start to hear this weird thing. “We want to move to a place that has energy.” “Yes, we want to go to a place that has energy.”
Energy is what we look for in a place. And I’m hearing it from young people, old people, black, white, Hispanic, Latino, Asian. Energy. And I’m thinking…Dick, I’m thinking, “All these people want to go to a place with cheap electricity and gas?” (Laughter). Cheap… Everyone in the country is moving to the cheap electric and gas towns, cause that’s what the theory told me. The cost of energy, the cost of living, but you know… That’s not what they were saying. And then finally after about 30 seconds, it dawned on me. They had a different meaning for the word energy. But folks, that’s a good problem for an academic, because now I had to deconstruct what the hell you mean when you say energy to me.
Well let me tell you in just a brief way what these people meant. The first thing people meant when they said energy is we want to go to a place that we can do things. Now, economic development and culture for the past 50 years has been about building bigger and bigger sports stadiums and arts complexes where people can watch. People said to us, “No, we don’t watch. We want to do. We want to play sports. We want to ride a mountain bike. We want to ride a road bike.” If you’re ever in Colorado, you’ll know this shit. “We want a job, we want a guide, we want ultimate Frisbee.” I have no idea what this stuff is. I ride a road bike. I am terrified of going down a mountain on anything. Skis, mountain bike… forget it. But they wanted to live in a place where it’s available, and then I thought about it…I thought about, well people now are working with their mind. We’re creating for a living. We’re cooped up behind a computer in an office, in our home office, in a classroom, in a lab.
Then I thought about my father. He worked with his back all day and his arms and his legs. Can you imagine my dad coming home after… What’d he do after a hard day work at the factory? He cracked open one of those old-school cans of Schlitz with a can opener and put the Yankees on. My mom… I could just picture my mom, a little old Italian lady coming home after school saying, “Richard, I’m gonna put my Laker shorts on and my sports bra and my roller blades, and I’m gonna roller blade down the streets of North Arlington.” She would’ve been in a mental ward, but yet we do this with not even an afterthought. Jogging was invented in our lives. No one jogged when I was little. The only people who wore that kinda stuff were whacked out professors. They did yoga. No one else did this. They lived in places like Greenwich Village and Berkeley. Weird. But now it’s normal. As one of my interview subjects said, “This isn’t about playing. It’s about recharging our batteries, about becoming more focused on work, about release… regenerating ourselves.” We’re getting ready, as she said, to work a second working day. A second 8-hour day. So people wanted to be involved, and in arts and culture, the same thing.
In arts and culture, again, people said we want to do arts and culture. We want to be involved in arts and culture. We want to be in a place that has all sorts of arts and culture offerings, not just the traditional wants. And then lots of young people told us. “Listen, we like the symphony, but we don’t know what to wear…I mean, do we have to wear a bow tie or a suit, and how do we get tickets? I mean, we work all the time, and how do we get a subscription that means we go on the second Thursday of the third month? We don’t know where we’re gonna be. We want our culture when we need it and we want a music scene. We want live music. We want all kinds of music.” One of the people said, “We want a town that has an audio signature… that has an audio identity.” That’s how we know a town that’s interesting: It has its own sound, that’s giving rise to new sounds, that has a music scene, that has an art scene, that has street level culture. That’s what people wanted.
When you thought about it, people were working these crazy schedules. People were working all the time. They couldn’t be programmed into culture. They needed it on demand, “just in time,” as we say in economics, when they could consume it. And then, you know, being a child of the 60s… Oh my! Oh my! I still remember asking this group of young people… I said, “Well isn’t what you really want in a city just a place to just go out and get blasted. Don’t you want all night bars and open all night partying and club scenes and music?” And the one guy looked at me and he said, “Dude, I don’t know what you guys did in the 60s, but we can’t afford the recovery time.” (Laughter). It’s not about partying till you’re drunk. It’s about having an exciting and fulfilling…
One guy captured this all. He called up on the phone. It was in Indiana. Central Indiana. He called up on the phone. He said, “I get this now.” He said, “I came here from Ireland and I went to Purdue. I put my two boys through Purdue, and they graduated Purdue and they had a ton of offers in the Indianapolis area, and neither one of them stayed. And when I asked them, ‘Boys, why didn’t you stay?’ They said, ‘It’s not enough for us just to have a great technology job. We’re creative. We’re creative. We want to be challenged in arts and music. We want to be challenged by the sports we do. We want to be challenged in the other people we meet.’” He said, “My boys moved to Seattle and San Francisco. They’re challenged when they walk out their door in the morning in all facets of their life.” Challenged.
Well, then the final thing we found. People want to be in diverse places, and they told us this. We want to go to a town that is open. “We want to go to a town…” I said, “What do you mean?” “We want to go to a town where women are in positions of leadership, where women…(Applauding). People all over the country told us this. We want to go to a town where we see people who look different than us. We want to go to a town where Asian and Hispanic and black people are all there and accepted. We want to go into a town that has diversity in its leadership, and I began to think about this. Creative people don’t want to have stuff handed to them. We compete on merit. That’s what these focus groups tell us. We compete on merit. We are meritocratic people. We want to know we’re gonna get by on our skills and our capabilities and how good we are, not on who mom and dad are and how many connections we have. That’s what people were looking for, and these were the visual cues that they could go to a town, they could go to a town and see that it was based on merit, because there was all these people part of the mix, and it was open.
And then the one that shocked me – and I heard this from young woman after young woman after young woman: “We go to a town that has a visible and active gay and lesbian community.” A visible and active gay and lesbian community, and I was puzzled. Why? Because that’s the kind of town that is open and accepting of everyone. If it’s accepting and a gay and lesbian community feels visible and open and accepted, they could be themselves. That’s the kind of town that I can go to, and I can make a difference whether I’m straight or I’m gay. Well, this is when the trouble started, and I got accused of everything. (Laughter)
Because we found a little measure. Though we had another one, the Bohemian Index. They didn’t like the bohemian index or our measure of the artists and the cultures and the musicians that we used. Then we showed that the bohemian index was associated with the place that’s an economic growth mecca. Oh, but the gay index. That’s the one that got me into big trouble. When we showed that places with the larger concentration of gay and lesbian people… that those places that had a larger concentration of gay and lesbian people were also the places that had higher rates of innovation and entrepreneurship and economic growth – well, that’s when all hell broke loose. But it’s not that we were saying…(Applauding)… Thank you. And we say this in the book. It’s not that the gay and lesbian community or the bohemian community literally causes growth. It’s not that somehow if you have gays and lesbians and bohemians, they turn into high-tech entrepreneurs. (Laughter). They might. (Laughter).
I often say… Hey, if you want to do entrepreneurship, I say this all the time in focus groups…Anyone who’s been in a rock band, in a musical band, raise your hand. There are your entrepreneurs. They’re your entrepreneurial talent, not the professors in the laboratories, cause those are the folks who know how to book gigs and build bands and put tours together and crank out their CDs and market themselves cause they did it. But it’s not that magically bands turn into high-tech or gays turn into high-tech… It’s that places that are open to arts and cultural creativity, places that are open to different kinds of people, are meritocratic and energetic and creative.
And, you know what, our demography is so radically changing. You gotta know this. I grew up in a Leave it to Beaver Family. Everybody remember Leave it to Beaver. That’s a working dad, stay-at-home mom, two boys, and a house. Less than eight percent of Americans live in that kind of family today. Less than 25 percent of us live in a nuclear family, a mom and dad and kids. Forty-five percent of people between the ages of 15 and 45 are single. What do you think is going on with these cities that are getting all these people? There are many more single people. There are many more gay people. There are many more different kinds of families. That’s the reality. The cities and towns that prosper are open all… Well anyway, I’m at my Fidel Castro Public Speaking limit, but I want to tell you one story. (Laughter). Professors all come from the Fidel Castro School of Public Speaking.
I want to tell you one story to end it, and then let’s take the questions and talk about the tremendous assets and opportunities you guys have right here in town and in this state. Not just in town… in this state. Paul Allen is the other guy at Microsoft, and I think in many ways this little story kinda gets at the heart of what I’m trying to say. He’s the other guy at Microsoft. He’s not quite as wealthy as Bill Gates. He’s only worth like 25 billion, and he was the software mind behind the company. And he was turning 50 and he decided, “I gotta give something back to Seattle. I gotta give something back to my town that shows what it meant to me… what stimulated me, what helped me realize my dream.” And he put together a $200 million or $300 million package to build a new thing. Does anyone remember what he built?
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Music Project. The Jimi Hendrix Experience Music Project. A facility devoted to my boyhood idol. That was my idol, Jimi Hendrix. So this immediately attracted me. All my life I wanted to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix. Maybe Paul Allen did, too, and you think about this for more than… You know, you think about this. Reflect on it for a second. Here he is, Paul Allen. He’s one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the late 20th and early 21st century. Clearly, the ones who must have inspired him were a Rockefeller, or a Carnegie, or another industrial type, right? That’s why he went in and accumulated his capital and built this business, but it wasn’t Rockefeller or Carnegie who inspired him. Okay, so he’s a software developer. He’s an intellectual mind, mathematics and physics… Einstein. Einstein had to be his inspiration, right? It had to be Einstein that motivated Paul Allen from which he took his inspiration, but it wasn’t Einstein. Okay, so maybe it’s an inventor… Edison? Edison, the greatest inventor of our time. Edison had to be the person who motivated him. Not Edison.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Music Project. An African American psychedelic rock and roll musician. That says it all. It says everything you need to say. It wasn’t Carnegie or Rockefeller. It wasn’t Edison or Einstein that inspired Paul Allen. It was Jimi Hendrix, a young African American kid growing up in the low income neighborhoods of Seattle who himself served in the armed forces and who came back when he left the armed forces and formed a band and began to experiment with new kinds of musical sounds, not old sounds. Began to create something very new and very… at the boundaries, at the multi-disciplinary boundaries of jazz and blues and soul and rock and pop and psychedelic music, and he began to blend those sounds and put them together…and he had to leave the United States to do it. He had to move to England, where he surrounded himself in that psychedelic music scene with British musicians, and he began to make albums, and he began to tour, and he began to create these sounds, and people gravitated to it and these performances. But he not only was an artist, was he?
Jimi Hendrix was one of the greatest technological innovators in the history of modern music, experimenting with fuzz tones and distortion and Wha Wha pedals that changed the timber of music… taking rotary speakers that had been used for organs and using them to project and reverberate guitar sounds, taking amplification units and putting new kinds of tubing and overdriving them to get an even more sustained sound. And when that wasn’t enough, he opened his own state-of-the-art, with the few dollars he had… his own state-of-the-art recording studio, his own version of a garage, his own version of an inventive garage where he could experiment with sounds and music and art and the discipline of technology and cultural creativity. It wasn’t Edison, it wasn’t Einstein, it wasn’t Carnegie or Rockefeller. It was a young African American musician who inspired the greatest software developer of our time. Thanks so much for listening.
Commentary from Rocky Scott, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation and Susan Edmondson, executive director of the Bee Vradenburg Foundation