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Employers, take note

Book tells how to lure Creative Class workers

Autumn Phillips

“The Rise of the Creative Class and how it’s transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life,” by Richard Florida, ended up on my desk via Linda Kakela, city director of intergovernmental services. I’d heard the title before from Steamboat Springs Arts Council Executive Director Nancy Kramer, and before that it was the pet book of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

The economic theories presented in this book have those in government buzzing.

I took Kakela’s copy of the book and let it sit around for a while before deciding to tackle it.

Florida is a professor of regional economic development at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and he writes like the academic he is. His pages are filled with more studies and statistics than anecdotes and personal stories, which makes for dry reading.

But his writing style aside, Florida has something important to say. Policy-makers, urban developers and employers would do well to read this book.

Florida watched as young people left his adopted city of Pittsburgh in droves for jobs in places such as San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas, even though they were being offered high-paying, upwardly mobile jobs in Pittsburgh.

His conclusion was that the modern worker is looking for more than security and a paycheck. He spent 326 pages trying to figure out exactly what companies need to know to attract talented employees.

He labeled his new kind of worker the “Creative Class.”

A change in the working world has come about for two main reasons. First, companies with an eye on profit margins are no longer loyal to workers in the way they once were. Workers no longer can rely on companies for lifelong careers, and in response, workers no longer are loyal to companies. The Creative Class workers that Florida interviewed tended to move from job to job every three years.

The second reason for the shift was the nature of the work that now needs to be done.

In a fast-moving economy, especially in the high-tech sector, workers always need to be coming up with new ideas. Creative people are more valuable than ever, and creative people need a different kind of environment to stay creative than the traditional world of the suit-and-tie “organization man.”

The Creative Class worker wants flexible hours, but is willing to work longer and harder than previous generations. The Creative Class worker no longer subscribes to the traditional dress code. Creative Class workers want to be paid their worth, but they will trade off money for work satisfaction.

“Money alone is not enough to make someone happy, but money alone can make someone unhappy,” Florida wrote.

But Florida’s major point and the point that has drawn the attention of people such as Hickenlooper and Kakela is the importance of place to members of this Creative Class. Workers no longer are willing to move to a backwater town just to advance their careers. Not only must the company be providing an atmosphere conducive to creativity, but so must the town. Towns with cultural amenities, nightlife, access to outdoor recreation and openness to diversity are the places that attract these Creative Class workers.

Colorado government officials seem to be taking note. At least, they are buying the book.


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