Creative Class And Local Economic Development Commerce Essay

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This essay will consider the public-policy theory of the 'Creative Class' and whether this does in fact provide a solution for Local Economic Development. The idea of the creative class was first introduced in Richard Florida's 'The Rise of the Creative Class: And how it's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life' (2002a), which became a best seller in its field. Subsequently the theory of the creative class has cemented itself into popular public-policy.

The concept of the creative class is based upon a new approach to Local Economic Development (LED). Instead of the more traditional approach to LED, of local and regional agencies seeking to improve their economy through the attraction of Trans National Corporation (TNC) through subsides and other incentives (Pike et al. 2006), the model of the creative class is routed in the idea of the competitiveness of an area and its ability to attract people to their locality over others. The concept of the competitiveness of an area is one that has grown considerably in the last century (Bristow 2005) to the point where it is considered that competitiveness equals prosperity and regions should focus on trying to attract exogenous resources.

The 'Creative Class' is an example of an exogenous resource, which focuses on the attraction of specific individuals and types of occupation, rather than companies (Pike et al. 2006). In this respect creative class refers to a particular pool of individuals working in specific sectors, which are thought to have a beneficial impact upon the surrounding environment around where they work. This essay will seek to define what is meant by the creative class and consider the pros and cons in this sort of model for delivering local economic development. Of course to just investigate the theory of this debate is insufficient because what may work in theory does not always work in practice. Therefore it is important to scrutinise an example where these theories have been put into effect, one such case is that of Cardiff.

Before considering Cardiff as a case study it is first important to define what is meant by the term the 'Creative Class'. There has been a lot of literature based on this new economic group, although with most academic theories the more it is defined the more ambiguous it becomes. In considering who exactly the term the creative classes refers to, it makes sense to start with the key text which first introduced the idea into mainstream public policy.

In Florida's 'Rise of the Creative Class' (2002a) he states that the term refers to a specific set of people in society who are engaged in work which 'create meaningful new forms' (Florida 2002a, pg 68), specifically people who add economic value to an area through their creativity. This is not the first theory which has centred around a specific group in society, but the difference between the concept of the creative class and previous concepts linking together common social and professional groups such as "Knowledge Workers" and "professional-managerial class", is that the basis of the creative class is routed in the economic rather than social or cultural (Florida 2002a). However, this grounding in the economic underpins and informs it members' social, cultural and lifestyle choices (Florida 2002a). In other words, people working in creative jobs tend to socialise with people in similarly creative professions simply because of their comparable economic function within the social and cultural preferences stemming from this group, rather than being the basis of the social grouping (Florida 2002a).

In a journal written by Florida called the 'The Economic Geography of Talent' he states that those belonging to the creative class, or 'talented people' as they can also be referred to, can be identified based upon three measures of talent. These are: the highly educated; those who are professional and technical workers; those who are scientists or engineers (Florida 2002b). This definition of talented individuals can then be two key sets of creative professions known as the 'Super-Creative Core' and 'Creative Professional' (Florida 2002a, pg. 69). The first of these components, the 'Super-Creative Core', consist of scientists, engineers, university professors, designers and architects, which are professions where the individual produces new products or designs through their work which are then widely transferable (Florida 2002a). The second component, the 'Creative Professional' applies to those working in knowledge intensive industries such as lawyers, doctors, financial advisers and those working in the high-tech sectors rather than producing creativity like those in the 'Super-Creative Core' these individuals jobs focus on creative problem solving (Florida 2002a).

Having considered the sort of professions that the creative class incorporates it is important to consider the characteristics of this group and how they are likely to have a profound effect on the LED, other than just through their economic function. Pike (2006) considers that the creative class are those with 'a relaxed dress code, flexible working arrangements, and leisure activities that focus on exercise and extreme sports' (Pike 2006 p193) as well as working within creative sectors. In describing the lifestyle habits of the creative class Florida (2002a) considers the street level culture that these individuals enjoy and describes an environment "teeming blend of cafes, sidewalk musicians, and small galleries and bistros, where it is hard to draw the line between participant and observer, or between creativity and its creators" (Florida 2002a, pg. 166). Similarly to the characteristic raised by Pike (2006), Florida (2002a) considers that the creative classes actively participate in a variety of experiential activities such as travelling, shopping and exercising. In conclusion the creative class is a sector that seeks to actively participate rather than choosing to be spectators (Florid 2002a).

However, these points are not undisputed and a number of published academic texts have criticised the ideas put forward by Florida. Markussen's journal article "Urban Development and the Politics of the Creative Class" (2006) makes the case that in fact most of those identified by Florida as being creative professions are not inherently creative and they have no concept of group identity as a whole. This point is similarly made by Montgomery (2005) who states that Florida has devised a concept which simply covers the "more fundamental truths about creative milieu or dynamic cities" (Montgomery 2005, pg. 339) rather than identifying a key economic group of individuals. In this regard, these academics' view of this creative class simply refers to a collection of individuals who are present in every major economic locality, and the concept of street level culture is more a sign of the general changes in taste of the public and not due to the desires of one specific group of people.

Why attract the 'Creative Class'?

Although the term 'Creative Class' defines a group of individuals characterized by an important skills sets and knowledge, how does this have an effect on Local Economic Development? In addition, why should cities and regions seek to actively attract these individuals to their locality?

The attraction and retention of a creative workforce is seen as a significant driver of economic growth in local and regional areas (Peck 2005) and has replaced more traditional models of attracting high-tech companies. Florida (2002b) states this shift of focus from the attraction of business to the attraction of labour is due to the fact that 'the availability of talent is an increasingly important location factor for high technology firms' (2002b p25). In other words the emphasis on the importance of incentives in attracting firms to a locality has become less significant than the ability of firms to locate in areas with a high quality labour market.

Florida (2002a) also makes reference to how the creative class can be a catalyst for LED in his analogy the '3T's of Economic Development', the 'T's' referring to Technology, Talent and Tolerance. The basis of this analogy is that growth is driven by creative people (Talent) who locate to places that are ethnically diverse and open to new ideas (Tolerant) and this concentrations of 'Cultural Capital' along with the introduction of new products and processes (Technology) leads to business formation, job generation and economic growth (Montgomery 2005, pg. 339).

This technique of attracting economic growth is also more beneficial to the area itself, as the attraction of companies through incentives can only provide a short-term solution because if the required local labour force is not present then the company is unlikely to remain in the area for the long term. Also in the current economic climate there is little opportunity for regions to attract large corporations through incentives; therefore, it is essential that local areas achieve a level of uniqueness and entrepreneurialism that will allow increased competitiveness and economic growth, which can be achieved through the creation of a creative labour force in the area (Florida 2002a).

Some literature suggests that not only do the creative classes have an effect upon the economy of the area but they can also provide other benefits which can improve an area. In 'The "Creative Class" and the Gentrifying City', Howell discusses how the creative class can improve their physical environment by the process of renovation and gentrification. In fact he states "What holds ''bohemians'' and ''creative professionals'' together is not class at all, but their participation in the process of gentrification." (Howell 2005, pg. 39)

However, similarly to the overall concept of the Creative Class not everyone shares this view. Using the indices that Florida suggests for gauging the impact the creative classes have on economic growth Hoyman and Faricy (2009) found in their analysis that there was no statistical evidence that cities with higher proportions of creative class workers correlated with any type of economic growth from 1990-2004. In fact Malanga (2004) found that in the United States the best performers in terms of Local Economic Development were not creative cities but were in fact those that offered business friendly environments with low-taxes and economic incentives.

How do you attract the Creative Class?

Despite the various criticisms raised against the concept of the creative class and their ability to stimulate economic growth, it is clear that overall benefits of creative labour have a significant weight. Having come to the conclusion that the attraction of a talented workforce can provide economic benefits to an area the next challenge that local and regional agencies face is what factors attract these talented individuals and how to create a so called 'Creative City' (Hall 2000). With this in mind, it is necessary to identify the key components that make creative cities and highlight the issues faced by local agencies who try to emphasise and develop these facets.

Florida (2002c) suggests that there is a strong link between the creative classes and bohemian environments. He states that; 'the presence and concentration of bohemians in an area creates an environment or milieu that attracts other types of talented or high human capital individuals' (Florida 2002c, pg. 55). The reasoning behind this attraction to such bohemian environments is as a result of the features that these environments provide, which he lists as 'active recreation, high quality restaurants, bustling street life, and music venues' (Florida, 2002b p16). In other words Florida believes, and this is backed up by other academics as well, that there is a strong correlation between the concentration of lifestyle amenities and the concentration of creative capital (Florida, 2002b p18). This is particularly relevant to the creative class as they are considered to be much more economically mobile than other groups and are therefore free to exercise choice in where they locate.

In 'The geography of bohemia' Florida suggests a set of indices from which empirical data can be used to calculate how Bohemian an area is, a 'Boho Index' (Florida 2002c, pg. 59). These indices help to provide a further insight into the type of environment that attracts creative capital. Some of the key indicators which feed into the boho index are as follows: the coolness index which is based upon the percentage of population ages 22-29; nightlife and culture (Florida 2002b, pg.746); the diversity index also known as the gay index based on census data; and the 'Melting pot' index which is based on the percentage of the population that is foreign born (Florida 2002c, pg. 60). The reason for the inclusion of indicators such as the gay and 'melting pot' index is that these segments of the population have long faced discrimination and ostracism, therefore the presence of a large population of such factions is a signal indicator of a region that is very open to diversity (Florida 2002b, pg.747).

With these indicators in mind, it is clear that local and regional agencies face a challenge in transforming localities into places that are considered 'cool'. By using Cardiff as an example it is possible to consider how a locality can seek to promote itself and create a more competitive and 'cool' image, the issues this creates and gauge whether the creative class really do provide a solution to Local Economic Development.

Cardiff and the Creative Class

Cardiff City Council (CCC) has produced an economic strategy through which it seeks to stimulate Local Economic Development. The name of the document in question is Competitive Capital the Cardiff Economic Strategy 2007-2012 (CCTCES). The key vision that this document identifies is:

"To ensure that Cardiff, as an International Capital, is an inclusive, vibrant and thriving city in which to live and work, with a skilled, creative workforce and a buoyant business environment" (CCC 2007, pg.0)

From the offset it is made clear that Cardiff seeks to attract a skilled and creative workforce, in other words the creative class. With a strong focus upon skills and knowledge the emphasis of CCTCES is upon attracting the development of specific key employment sectors. The sectors the Council suggest they might seek to attract are: Financial and Business Services; Bioscience; Creative industries; Technology and Leisure; Tourism. These are all sectors that feature prominently in Florida's theories of creative labour and attraction of firms (Florida 2002a, 2002b, 2002c).

As well as seeking to attract businesses which have strong links with the creative class, Cardiff also benefits from certain criteria which Florida identifies as indicators of creative cities. Firstly in relation to the diversity index, the CCTCES (2007) states that Cardiff has a very diverse population and that this diversity is considered to be a 'powerful tool for economic and social prosperity' (CCC 2007, pg. 10). This shows that Cardiff as a city is open to various sectors of society which Florida identified as an important indicator of a creative city (Florida 2002c). However, although the strategy states that this is the case, it then provides little information on how it intends to capitalise on this in order to encourage LED. This is important because Florida (2002c) suggests that if these characteristics are properly promoted it can lead to attraction of high capital individuals, who would in turn attract firms to locate within the city.

The second indicator of Cardiff's desire to become a creative city is that of the provision of amenities. The strategy seeks to promote the development of new amenities within the city and describes how the streets, waterfront spectacle and thriving commercial activity can be considered to contribute to a 'high quality of space' which may be considered 'hip' or 'cool' (Florida 2002b). As well as acknowledging the existing spaces, places and 'spectacles' which Cardiff already offers, the strategic plan also identifies targets for future development. These include such schemes and approaches as the development of a range of creative industry hubs; maintenance and improvement of the city's cultural, leisure and sporting facilities; variety of regeneration initiatives focused upon improving quality of life (CCC 2007).

As well as these two indicators which the CCTCES makes reference to, Cardiff would seem to score well on the coolness index. This is due to the large student population in the city (percentage of population ages 22-29) which makes up a large proportion of the population. In addition, Cardiff has a large number of bars, nightclubs and the like, per capita as well as a number of art galleries and museums (Florida 2002b). These factors all contribute to the coolness indicator which Florida suggests is likely to attract high capital individuals to the area, who would in turn attract firms to locate within the city (Florida 2002c). Cardiff University also plays another important part in the strategy, which includes a section dedicated to 'a skilled city', where there is a strong emphasis upon the role of Cardiff's universities:

"Cardiff must capitalise on the expertise of its universities' through strong relationships between academia and business sectors and a retention of graduates" (CCC 2007, pg. 44).

As these characteristics suggest, Cardiff already has some of the key features identified by Florida as enticements to the creative class such as diversity, amenity and coolness (Florida 2002b, 2002c) and the economic strategy suggests how to further develop these characteristics. However, this essay also seeks to assess whether the creative class provide a solution to local economic development therefore it is important to consider whether these characteristics have boosted the local skills base and the economy.

As part of the Implementation of the Competitive Capital, Cardiff Council produce a review of the Economic Strategy annually, which provides an overview of the activities undertaken over the year that have helped progress Cardiff's economy. The Annual Review also provides analysis of the measures of success identified in the Economic Strategy. The Economic Strategy Annual Review 2008-2009 (2008) provides a summary of the improvements to the skills base and economy in Cardiff. As part of the Innovations sector of the Competitive Capital strategy it set out a key aim to increase the number employed in high value added, knowledge based, sectors (CCC 2007). In the Annual Review (2008) it provides a breakdown of how employment numbers for each of these key sectors has changed. The figures are as follows:

"In bioscience 1,600 net additional jobs were created over this period, in the finance and business services there were an additional 5,500 net jobs, whilst around 300 net additional jobs were to be found within the leisure and tourism sector. Employment levels fell over this period in the creative industries and ICT sectors." (CCC 2008, pg.22)

In addition, the Annual Review (2008) also states that the UK Cities Monitor 2008 named Cardiff as one of the top 10 cities in the UK to locate a business, based upon the city's success as an attractive business destination.


The aim of this essay was to consider whether the concept of the 'Creative Class' provides a solution for Local Economic development. Florida (2002a, 2002b, 2002c) considers the creative class to be the key to attracting high tech industries. Although this view is not unanimous, having studied the various arguments for and against it would appear that this idea of creative labour is significant and has some impact upon the future of economic prosperity for local and regional agencies. Having identified the creative class, it was then important to consider what attracted them to an area. Florida stated that there was a key link between the creative individuals and bohemian environments, where there are high degrees of diversity and specific amenities (Florida 2002c). Therefore if local and regional agencies wished to attractive a creative workforce in order to entice companies they would have to consider addressing these characteristics.

Having considered the theory behind attracting the creative classes it was important to see if this would actually work in practice in order to assess whether it is in fact a viable solution for the stimulation of economic growth. The case study used to determine this was CCC's Competitive Capital the Cardiff Economic Strategy 2007-2012 (CCC 2007), which made evident that they had sought to include and improve upon a number of the characteristics which Florida considered key factors in attracting the creative class. The Economic Strategy Annual Review (CCC 2007) assessed whether these had been effective or not in terms of growth in creative industry sectors. The report concluded that there had been some growth in certain sectors but not in others. However, this was over a period of economic uncertainty where the overall employment figures for Cardiff rose significantly (CCC 2008).

This case study has shown that the attraction of creative labour can be successful in some aspects, although it is difficult to achieve solely through the implementation of policy measures because it can be hard to identify exactly what attracts certain people. However, it would appear that the idea of attracting business by providing a knowledgeable and highly skilled workforce does provide some economic benefits, but it cannot be seen as the sole approach and would probably prove more effective if integrated with other Local Economic Strategies.