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Sillst

Grand Rapids and The Creative Class

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So long time lurker here and probably about 5 years late in reading this book.

 

I love this area and I know the economy is on fire right now but in the book we were rated as one of the bottom on the creative class list. I was just wondering how this affects the area or if it even does? 

 

That's about all for me today, wish you all a great night!

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Richard Florida has been fairly discredited for many aspects of his research, but the central premise is correct IMO. Younger professional workers are more mobile than Boomers and Generation X and are on balance concentrating in larger metro areas that are amenity-rich and where like-minded people are (population growth causes more population growth). The premise begins to get weak when Houston stacks up against NYC in attracting the same numbers of folks to their cities when clearly the amenities each city provides are dramatically different. Rather, it isn't provision of the requisite Creative Class amenities that is attracting the professionals but general economic growth, which isn't much different than any other period in human history. 

 

I do think there is weight in the overall argument that Grand Rapids does have an inherent disadvantage based on its size and geography. Generally, the larger the city, the larger the airport, the better the ranking of ones top university, and the closer to a coast one all better position a community for future growth. GR breaks most of the typical conventions and really deserves an entire doctoral thesis as to why it breaks the mold. 

 

The GR community does a very good job investing in the types of infrastructure, design and amenities (both public and private [retail, breweries, restaurants, etc]).Two aspects that do concern me about GR's future growth: the lack of diversity in senior and mid-level positions. This demonstrates that we are bleeding substantial talent from minority communities to other places and could hamper site selection and growth opportunities; and secondly the regional higher-educational attainment levels are still fairly low when stacked to competing cities (Chicago, Minneapolis, etc). 

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http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/20/richard-florida-concedes-the-limits-of-the-creative-class.html

 

As Jippy said, the thought was that where young professionals would move, so would the jobs grow. This is a prime example of "correlation does not equal causation." That theory works in very large cities where there are huge clusters of industries, but in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, you really need job growth first to draw and retain young "creative" talent. Frankly, in Michigan, artists and art related employment are two of the lowest paid fields. They're not driving economic growth. 

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One of the metrics of growth that the Grand Rapids area has done well, is people with a bachelors degree or higher.  The growth rate for this was substantial based on the study I saw.  I do think the city does have size/geography disadvantages.  But it does seem like there has been a significant infrastructure put in place for the "creative class".   A lot of the people I know lately that have moved to GR are fresh college graduates who have been attracted here by the cities core. 

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One of the metrics of growth that the Grand Rapids area has done well, is people with a bachelors degree or higher.  The growth rate for this was substantial based on the study I saw.  I do think the city does have size/geography disadvantages.  But it does seem like there has been a significant infrastructure put in place for the "creative class".   A lot of the people I know lately that have moved to GR are fresh college graduates who have been attracted here by the cities core. 

 

As a transplant who came here because my wife is from Grandville, one of the things I love about this area is the ease of access to outdoor amenities.  This includes all the different kinds of trails (hiking, biking, paved, natural surface), inland lakes, and Lake Michigan.  I think this green infrastructure is something that a place like Chicago just can't offer in the same quantity/quality.  There are also innumerable weekend getaway spots within a 2-3 hour drive.  It's fantastic.

Edited by fotoman311

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As a transplant who came here because my wife is from Grandville, one of the things I love about this area is the ease of access to outdoor amenities.  This includes all the different kinds of trails (hiking, biking, paved, natural surface), inland lakes, and Lake Michigan.  I think this green infrastructure is something that a place like Chicago just can't offer in the same quantity/quality.  There are also innumerable weekend getaway spots within a 2-3 hour drive.  It's fantastic.

 

But I don't think the enjoyment of those amenities is relegated to the young and creative. If you go to a meeting regarding parks and trails, it's mostly older people. Most of the people I encounter on trails like the White Pine are a mix of ages and demographics. 

 

Interestingly as time went on, Florida started to broaden his definition of "creative class" to include technical professions and accountants. It pretty much blew his whole theory. 

 

What happens with his theories is that he shows "City X's population has 40% bachelors degrees attainment, and they have Y and Z resulting economic growth." The problem with that theory is there's no way to prove whether the jobs came first or the people with bachelor's degrees came first. An area like Raleigh ranks high in Florida's ratings, but it has so many bachelor's degrees primarily because of growth in the birth of Research Triangle Park in the 1970's and 80's and the employers based there, and the people they have brought to the area to work. It was not organic growth of a bunch of people with bachelor's degrees all of a sudden decided to move there first back in the 1970's. 

 

Washington DC is very much the same. If the Federal Government suddenly laid off 200,000 workers in the DC metro, and all of the companies that supply the govt folded as a result, those highly educated people would have no choice but to move somewhere else. 

 

That's not to say that investing in the urban core of a metro area does NOT have positive economic benefits. Quite the contrary. But to claim that entire metro areas will only grow if they have X number of college grads is ludicrous, and that is being shown with the GR metro area. GR and Holland are growing way faster than Ann Arbor's metro at 30% college attainment, despite the fact that more than half the Ann Arbor MSA has a bachelor's degree. 

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