Toledo told to use its assets for creativity – Richard Florida offers advice at Peristyle

Richard Florida has some advice for Toledoans who want their city to be a hotbed of creative energy: Don’t try to be another San Francisco.

The Toledo Blade

"The world does not need another San Francisco," the author and economic-development consultant told about 800 people in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle yesterday at an event billed as the kickoff for a city arts and culture plan.

What it does need, Mr. Florida said, is a city that has become a creative place by being itself, making use of its own history and resources.

The author of The Rise of the Creative Class said as he looked at a map of the Toledo area, he immediately saw potential in the close proximity of Toledo, Detroit, and Ann Arbor, and their location around Lake Erie.

"If you take that as a broad region," he said, "it could be one of the most creative places. … That’s the example the world needs."

Mr. Florida, the H. John Heinz III professor of regional economic development at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said he thinks Toledo is at a good place at this point in its history, but that a change in convictions and attitudes is the key to making the city great.

He said the city has an incredible history, industrial-age architecture, a great museum, and good universities, but that it will require political will and collective leadership to make the city the kind of place he is talking about.

That may mean stifling "the squelchers" who themselves quash creative ideas behind closed doors.

He said many people who have read his book mistakenly think it is about attracting the creative class.

"This is not to say you can lure the creative class. The creative class is not like a football or basketball team that you attract with all this silly stuff."

Creative people, he said, are already here. "Every single human being is creative. Every single resident has creative potential and energy."

To foster the kind of city where creative energy will be allowed to flourish, he suggested the city not be afraid of its industrial history. The old buildings that are a reminder of the city’s past, he said, are ideal for new ideas.

However, he said a city trying to encourage creativity should view suburban sprawl as the enemy because it undermines the city’s economy. Furthermore, he said, it is dense, compact cities with strong cores that foster innovation. "Density creates the energy."

Mr. Florida discovered creativity’s connection to economic growth after he learned that Lycos, a company that had started in Pittsburgh, announced it was moving to Boston to get access to the available pool of knowledge and creative workers who were there.

For the first time, he said, he saw that something strange and different was going on in the economy: jobs were moving to people, not people to jobs.

A city arts plan that was distributed as part of Mr. Florida’s presentation calls for making the arts and creative people key players in city economic development by holding a major arts event each year, developing a marketing strategy for the arts, increasing space for arts and arts groups, and setting up an arts Web site.

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