…and the flipside to Richard Florida…
The last two days focused on Richard Florida, so let’s look at seemingly contrasting research. People like Joel Kotkin, author of the The New Geography, and Jack Schultz, author of BoomTown USA, say more people are migrating to small towns that aren’t nearly as ‘creative’ as the cities on Florida’s list. In fact, Schutz just commented on this yesterday.
Well, they’re kind of all right. Young people are still moving to creative centers (if you’re young and single, you know why), but they’re looking for alternatives because the Manhattans and Seattles are simply too expensive. Sure, job choice is vaster and it’s much easier to find or be asked out on a date in these cities, but there’s a point where you’d like to live in a home larger than 600 s.f.
So, thanks to ‘home shoring’ and because many are attached to where they grew up, they are indeed staying in/moving to/returning to small towns in droves where office space and homes are truly affordable and city leaders are at least trying to make the place ‘cooler’. I can’t emphasize that last point enough, and that’s where our associates invest. Choice matters. No one wants to settle when it comes to their significant other. Timing matters. The excitement about starting a risky new business drastically wanes once they start a family. Why is this important? How old were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were when they started their companies? No older than 21.
Painting by Irving Norman
Jack Schulz was recently in Maine, and suggested a list of 8 “next Boomtowns”-I put a little thought into what was going on in these communities to warrant such a label.
I would like to comment on this interesting dynamic,
“They are all right”:
1) All of these towns were in the beginning stages of implementing “creative economy” strategies- revitalization of the towns, economies based on art/culture. I’ve been in contact with some of the leaders of these initiatives who have stated the “response from volunteers has far surpassed any other project.” This tells me that people are engaged and excited- and getting organized. Same principles at work- spreading like a virus- people are wanting to be a part of building something really cool.
2) These communities reek of authenticity- great architecture (brick mills that are emanating “heritage” and begging to be revitalized) and the basics of good design (Okay, not Venice, but truly human scale and walkable.)These are real towns
3) Housing costs predicated moves to small towns, but as Florida contends “the Creative Class wants to live in a place that isn’t finished yet.” These places aren’t finished yet- they’ve been around for hundreds of years, and are emerging from the industrial age ashes.
4) These towns don’t appear, on the surface, to be much different from many other towns. The real differences I’ve noticed are that there are the beginnings of vibrancy, and possibility. Read Cornelia and Jan Flora’s “Entrepreneurial Social Infrastructure”- great stuff that takes the notion of social capital to an actionable level.
This all said, I’ve recognized that rural communities are attempting to understand what the creative economy has to do with rural regions. I’ve even seen a GIS project attempting to refute Rich’s work/understand the application for rural regions. From my analysis of these efforts, my sense is that the notion of “community” must extend to a region, and based on consumption and commuter patterns. This would defy the delineations of census and labor statistic data Small towns should be considered in relationship to micropolitan and metropolitan regions- this takes Jane’s notion of “a federation of neighborhoods”- which Rich has put forward in tROCC- to the next spatial level. Creative regions are really a federation of communities.
This means that the dialogue isn’t about who is right/wrong, but how big your framework of understanding is.
Probably should have added something about the nature of agglomeration/connectivity
noted in these “next boomtowns”:
Given the lack of population density and the spatial distance between communities, and let’s not forget the few places for creatives to meet and hangout, these communities are working on improving both the internal connectivity between creatives and the connectivity between their communities and nearby metro/micropolitan regions. These have been strategic/project based.
Since this appears to be working- and resources are now being allocated to these connections- it would appear that, as the research states, network development can serve as a substitute for the urban agglomerization noted in Jane’s theory.
For the average twenty-one year old, here are the two most important differences between the city and the small town: the city has more breeding material; the city has more places to meet the breeding material.