AMES, Iowa -- Richard Florida sees economic development transcending beyond the working class to focus on a group he calls the "creative class." He asserts that metropolitan regions with high concentrations of this "creative class" -- high-tech and highly skilled workers, artists, professionals, etc. -- generate an environment that attracts more innovative people, as well as businesses and capital.
The author of two best selling books about the relationship between competitiveness and creativity -- "The Rise of the Creative Class" (Basic Books, 2002) and "The Flight of the Creative Class" (HarperCollins, 2005) -- Florida will share his views in a free public lecture at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 19, in C.Y. Stephens Auditorium, Iowa State Center. He will conduct a book signing after his lecture, which is also titled "The Rise of the Creative Class."
"Creative people need to express themselves, to show their identity," said Florida in an Aug. 2006 article by Ken Adelman Share in The Washingtonian magazine. "Cities or organizations that pressure people to conform have a tougher time fostering creative energy."
Florida is a professor of business economics and the academic director of the newly established Centre for Jurisdictional Advantage and Prosperity at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. He is also a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Senior Scientist with the Gallup Organization.
His creative class is composed of such professionals as scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and architects. Their designs are widely transferable and useful on a broad scale, yielding products that are also sold and used on a broad scale. Another sector of the creative class includes knowledge intensive careers -- those usually requiring a high degree of formal education. Examples include health professionals and business managers.
Florida theorizes that the creative class fosters an open, dynamic, personal and professional environment. He writes that attracting and retaining high-quality talent -- versus a singular focus on infrastructure projects such as sports stadiums, iconic buildings, and shopping centers -- would be a better primary use of a city's regeneration resources for long-term prosperity.
His ideas on the creative class, commercial innovation, and regional development have been featured in major ad campaigns from BMW and Apple, and are being used globally to change the way regions and nations do business and transform their economies.
Florida is founder of The Creative Class Group (CCG), a global think tank headquartered in Washington D.C., which develops pioneering strategies for business, government and community competitiveness. The CCG team itself is comprised of next-generation thinkers and strategists who offer companies, associations, and regions access to leading-edge knowledge, trends, research, consulting, education and professional development.
In addition to his recent best sellers, Florida also authored "The Breakthrough Illusion" (1990) and "Beyond Mass Production" (1993) -- books which paved the way for his views on how creativity is revolutionizing the global economy. His next book is due out in 2008 and will look at the way that people choose the places they live and how that affects everything from their real estate to their families.
He has written pieces for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Economist, The Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic Monthly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, U.S. News and World Report, and more. He also wrote "The University and the Creative Economy," a report published in December 2006 and funded by the Heinz Endowment.
Florida developed a "creativity index" for regions, designed to measure both their record of drawing creative professionals and their capacity for transforming assets into growth and economic development. Des Moines is ranked second highest on the index among 63 U.S. regions with populations between 250,000 and 500,000, behind Madison, Wis. The index takes into account the share of people who are employed in creative endeavors, the number of patents granted per capita, the amount of high-tech industrial output, and the proportion of gay people in the population.
This year's Dean Helen LeBaron Hilton Endowed Chair in Human Sciences Lecture is part of a community-wide celebration of Iowa State's sesquicentennial. The lecture is sponsored by the College of Human Sciences with support from the ISU Lectures Program/Government of the Student Body.
"The world in Florida's eyes is not so much flat as 'spiky,' with the spikes being those centers or nodes where creative people gather, innovate, produce, and grow," said ISU College of Human Sciences Dean Cheryl Achterberg. "His ideas are fresh, original, controversial and exciting. Diversity is central.
"Moreover, these concepts align with and reinforce the vision of the College of Human Sciences at Iowa State: expanding human potential and improving people's lives through better education and human development; science and technology; community and entrepreneurship; and health and well-being," she said. "Like Florida, we highly value diversity, access, creativity, and open exchanges of ideas and technology. Florida is considered one the world's greatest thinkers and is in demand by governments across the globe. We feel very fortunate, indeed, that he is visiting our campus as the Helen LeBaron Hilton Chair and we hope that as many people in our community as possible will listen to and consider his ideas."
Established in 1995, the Hilton Chair was endowed by a gift of more than $1.3 million from the estate of Helen LeBaron Hilton, who served as dean of the College of Home Economics from 1952 to 1975. That college is now part of the College of Human Sciences.
For more information, visit http://www.hs.iastate.edu/hiltonchair.