Next March, Dr. Richard Florida (the author of the book that is popularizing “creative class” economic development theory) will be leading a “Regional Transformation Process” for the Detroit area. The corporation-heavy, top-down event seeks to create One Giant Master Plan, since that has worked so well for Detroit in the past. They’ve launched a website: And they’re hoping the “creative class to be there in large numbers.” I think the “creative class” should get busy on their discussion board.

“Create Detroit is a regional group started by the Detroit Regional Chamber [of commerce] in partnership with The Henry Ford [Museum], Wayne State University, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Sloan Ventures, the Van Dusen Endowment, the Governor’s office and the City of Detroit as part of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s ‘Cool Cities Initiative.’ Planning dialogue was led by Ann Slawnik, director of the Detroit Orientation Institute at Wayne State University.

The idea behind Create Detroit is to create a long-range plan, focused on making the Detroit Region a magnet for new economy talent. The stakes are high. Those regions that do not flourish in the new creative economy will fail, according to Carnegie Mellon University professor Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class.”  Florida, whose groundbreaking book is heralding a new age of economic-development effort for metropolitan areas, is scheduled to keynote a Regional Transformation Process workshop slated for March 2004 and sponsored by Create Detroit.”

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Florida’s theories, or you are a Daily columnist who thinks you know what this is all about, here’s an interesting tidbit of his writing, responding to a critic:

“So how do gays and bohemians fit into my analysis? I am not saying that these people literally “cause” regions to grow. Rather, their presence in large numbers is an indicator of an underlying culture that’s conducive to creativity. Gays and artists (as well as immigrants, like Ramon Alvarez) are often regarded as being on the fringes of society. The places where they feel at home and thrive tend to have a culture of tolerance and open-mindedness. Gays and bohemians are leading indicators of a place that has a “creative ecosystem” – a regional habitat which is open to new people and ideas, where people easily network, connect; where bright ideas are not shot down or stifled, but are turned into new projects, new companies and new growth. Regions and nations that have such an ecosystem — that can do the best job of tapping the diverse creative talents of the most people — gain a tremendous competitive advantage. Which regions would you bet on as growth centers of the future: San Francisco, Boston and Seattle, with their consistent ability to generate major new industries, or Kotkin’s favorite places like McAllen, Fresno, and Riverside that offer cheap housing and low-wage labor?

The creative economy we’ve built thus far in the U.S. is neither a panacea nor a finished piece of work.”

This is why I am attracted to his ideas: I believe the core of his approach can be very political. He’s saying that if people in Michigan are serious about economic growth, they’ll have to get serious about equal rights for gays, affirmative action, affordible housing, and a host of other highly controversial issues. In Ann Arbor, actually retaining creative youth (Yes, even Ann Arbor, a “cool city,” is losing its highly educated 25-35 demographic Florida thinks is so important, according to census data) means the city might have to finally approve accessory apartments, reverse their authoritarian crack-down on events like Punk Week and Hash Bash, cut back on the detested “party patrol,” keep the fine for marijuana low, and maybe refrain from tearing down any building where young people meet to create art. But then again, they can ignore us, and we’ll all move to Ypsi. Or Seattle.

Author: Rob