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September 14, 2006

« WaPo Online Discussion on Washington DC's Creative Economy | Main | Richard Tours DC with WaPo »

Well, I'm at it again, cranking away at a new book - and I have a huge favor to ask you.  I want your stories.

See, this book is about how people pick the places they live and why that's the single most important decision they'll ever make. It's a book for you, any of you, wondering about all the different options out there.  Here's is what I'd like for you to do:

Tell me about the place you live.  Why did you pick your city or region? How did you go about picking it - what was your strategy? What other kinds of places did you look at?  How has that choice affected the rest of your life?  Your job or career?  Friends, family, or romantic interests?  Fulfillment and fun?  Real estate jackpots or money pits? Would you do it differently next time? What cities and regions are on your radar for the future and why?

That's it.  100 or 200 words, on any or all of those subjects.  300-500 words could be even better.  Send your stories to: whosyourcity@gmail.com, or post them on the comment section of this entry, or do both.

Together, we'll build a reservoir of community knowledge that I hope can help get a little closer to understanding: Who's Your City?   And remember, everyone: Make 'em zing!  They just may find their way into print and around the globe.  And thanks again!

(posted by Richard)

Comments

Katie

Dear Mr. Florida,
I would like to introduce myself as a fan of your work, and I only discovered it last month! I have been enthusiastically reading "The Rise of the Creative Class" and am so relieved to know that my experience of work culture is shared by many people. I am also wishing I had heard about your book as soon as it was published! I would like to share my "Who's Your City" anecdote with you, which may run over your requested word limit:

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in Sociology and Anthropology, I lived briefly in London before settling in New York. The main factors contributing to my location choice are consistent with your research: New York was a 'creative center' where most of my friends lived and which provided access to many types of jobs. I was one of many liberal arts graduates I knew who was more concerned with living in a city after college than career plans. I quickly realized that I needed more money than I was earning to both stay afloat and to make the transitions that are crucial for career-soul-searchers of my generation: stopping one job in order to find another, or even just having the funds necessary to move out of the city. Savings weren't even a consideration since everyone in my age group was living beyond his or her means, another factor in the "deferred-life-plan" (which is as much a function of money alone as it is the result of complicated and convoluted career paths). After nearly two years as an underpaid editorial assistant, I immediately transitioned into a temporary paralegal position, where I worked 60 hour weeks for four months in order to save up to move out of the city.

I then moved to Mexico, where I was a teacher, legal translator and dancer in a modern dance company. Then to Connecticut, my home-state, where I attended a dance conservatory. Now back in New York for just over a year, where I have been teaching and once again contemplating a move to a place that has most of the good life that New York offers with fewer trade-offs. (Montreal may be next and hopefully provide a more stable, long-term home.)

I would like to add that my geographic and job changes have been met with either concern or total lack of understanding by many people older than I, ranging from family to prospective employers to a career counselor. My career counselor was so old-school (thinking that the one career change he had made 20 years ago was counter-intuitive and amazing) that I ended up spending our sessions explaining my personal and my peers' experience of work to him. So there is certainly either a generational lag in this understanding or a cultural lag between urban and non-urban-dwellers based on their experience of work.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and I hope this feedback helps your research.

Best,
Katie

Jennifer Monti

I chose recently to relocate to Cleveland Heights, OH to complete my medical training. I came here for the top notch medical training available at the Cleveland Clinic, and to take advantage of the cross-pollination that could occur within Case Western Reserve University. I like Cleveland because it has such potential but a bit of trouble getting going. Every positive economic sign is a victory - the city may not be thriving, but every win is a big victory, and people rally around that. The inner ring suburbs of Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights are model integrated communities. An interesting side note is - I would never stay in Cleveland to raise my family, because you do not have to go to far to get to narrow minded people fearful of change who want to limit the rights of other people. I have no interest in contributing to the Ohio community at large; I will value and participate in my city for the time being- Ohio itself can take a hike. I think on a much smaller unit now.

Monika Dziegielewska-Geitz

Dear Richard,

I'd like to tell you about a place I live in:
LODZ
Poland, Central Europe, granted city rights
in 1423

Population: approximately 800,000 people
of diverse origins dating back to mostly
XIX century, when the industrial Lodz was
established, underwent its boom, giving rise
to some of the greatest textile fortunes in Europe
at the time - with Poznanski's, Scheibler's,
Grohmann's - the employers, mercenaries,
city's wealth designers who left heritage at present contributing to the city's being one
great "restorable asset" and "the promised
land" for creative industries as well as the restoration economy, yet still in the process
of continuing degradation: mass unemployment, poverty, alcoholism

1. Why did you pick your city or region?
Having lived in Germany - first in Munich then
in Berlin for almost ten years - and having travelled to Lodz for short breaks every two months - I decided to come back and share
what I'd learnt with Lodz, sad and angry
with its state of architectural and social degradation, touched by openness and simplicity of its people, thrilled and enchated
by its heritage, hungry for knowledge about its
history, excited with the prospect of excercising my creativity and entrepreneurial abilities

2.How did you go about picking it - what was your strategy?
I had started looking for a path for my
entrepreneurial endeavours by designing a character and strategy for my agency, which could contribute to finding redevelopment
solutions for the city. Learning about the restoration economy, the creative economy, nonviolent communication, establishing
jazz promotion contacts as well as building a network of contatcs in Lodz and worldwide led to organizing two creative redevelopment
events, the latest - Creative Redevelopment Festival - held with three associate organizations - two NGOs and one business on 11-12.09.06

3. What other kinds of places did you look at? 
I considered New York, Berlin, Lviv, Jerusalem, Ulan Bator, Shanghai, Passau.
Now they are becoming or to become partners
of Lodz in the course of my entrepreneurial development

4. How has that choice affected the rest of your
life? 
I have found a few true passions, have made contacts to people who enrich my life, have unlocked my creative potential and strengthened the belief that nothing is impossible

5. Your job or career? 
I have created a new career for myself, though am
still earning some of my income doing my 'old' job - teaching English as a foreign language for
a few hours a week

6. Friends, family, or romantic interests? 
My friends and family in Lodz were very surprised
with my decision to move from Germany back to Lodz, as they saw the city as a place without prospects, with just problems and
no opportunities; "It is a bad city,
they'd say- it will eat you alive".
My friends in Germany knew I was going to seek
opportunities and live in a fairy-tale, invented by me, put down on paper and read to the generation to come

7. Fulfillment and fun? 
The fulfillment comes with every success,
every tiny step forward. The creative process,
seeing and celebrating success are fun.
Transforming bitter experiences into creative
process is amazing and gives the feeling of freedom.
Creating my favourite entertainment - promoting
jazz - in a place where still almost nothing happens - with a vision of a music festival and a jazz base - is fuel for motivation and excitement

8. Real estate jackpots or money pits?
The discovery of the real estate opportunities,
getting to know the business and its experts
is every day reality and a way to invest and earn in
the future. Due to local government unwillingness to design local redevelopment plans, absence of transparency and accessible information exchange, lack of genuine competition for
excellence in the real estate, money pits are still a matter of finding.
Business and personal ethics are largely an issue

9. Would you do it differently next time?
I would secure more funds in the beginning
as well as take more time for some decisions

10. What cities and regions are on your radar for the future and why?
Berlin, New York, Lviv, Jerusalem, Petra,
Alexandria...
To experience, share, learn, have fun, explore,
write and find mutlicultural fulfillment

---
Warm regards,
Monika Dziegielewska-Geitz
EC&B CONSULTING:
Creative Networks Event Management
Nonviolent Language & Communication Factory
Lodz, Poland

Jocelyn Ring

Dear Mr. Florida,

What an interesting subject for a book. I've always been intrigued by people's choices and actions that produce their lifepaths. Below, I include answers to your sample questions.

Why did you pick your city or region?
Growing market. Low taxes. Good place to launch entrepreneurial venture. Excellent location to pursue lifelong hobby/passion of equestrian sports and make a living. Good for balance of life.

How did you go about picking it - what was your strategy? What other kinds of places did you look at?
I was a life-long New Yorker. I grew up in the suburbs of New York, attended college in New York, and pursued career in finance on Wall Street and earned an MBA at NYU. New York City was increasingly expensive (financially and in terms of quality of life) did not provide for quality of life. I could not enjoy the cultural offerings because I was too busy working. I had lived in London, briefly, and I do enjoy Europe, but I wanted to stay in the U.S. closer to family and friends. I still enjoy visiting other parts of the globe. I considered a big cross-country move to San Francisco. I like the size of the city, the outdoor aspect and the quality of life that San Francisco provides. I also have a sister that lives there. However, I decided to stay on the East Coast to allow for frequent visits to family and friends in New York. I considered cities like Washington, DC and Charlotte, NC. Ultimately, I chose Tampa, FL for the proximity to equestrian events, the water, and the warm winters. It also seemed to be an up and coming city where there would be opportunities to make an impact.

How has that choice affected the rest of your life? Your job or career? Friends, family, or romantic interests?
My career has exploded in my new environment. My lifeplan included starting a company – although I was not sure of the specifics. I met my current business partner, Karen Post-a national speaker, author and branding consultant, my third day in Tampa. I located her on a branding Web site and cold-called her. We worked together on several branding projects over the course of a year. During a business trip, we had a planning meeting for the coming year. We got to brainstorming and a little more than six months after that meeting, our company, Oddpodz, had a solid business plan, intellectual property, trademarks, an advisory board, investors, Web presence, branded merchandise and the architecture for a “global nation of creatives.” An on-line and off line enterprise where all creative types can connect, collaborate, learn, grow and prosper.

Fulfillment and fun?
I have a quality of life here that I could not have ever achieved in New York. I work hard, but I also have time to enjoy sports, excursions, trips to the beach and visits to New York and other places.

Would you do it differently next time?
No. I essentially took a leap of faith, followed my gut and my passions, utilized my classroom learning and life experiences to get to where I am today.

What cities and regions are on your radar for the future and why?
I am not sure where I would call home next, but I would like to spend several months in different cities to soak up different cultures and to, again, view the U.S. from a different perspective. Among those cities: Barcelona, Lisbon (I am fascinated by Portugal’s history), Florence, Moscow, Tokyo, Shanghai, Auckland, India, Buenos Aires and Santiago.

Kind regards,
Jocelyn Ring
co-founder
Oddpodz,LLC

Scott Tremaine

Just a quick note. When living in the US, I moved from Boston to Chicago for business school and fell in love with the city. Not only was the cost of living much lower (I was paying over $1,000 a month for a dirty basement appartment in a below average area of Boston and moved into a really nice appartment in a good area of Chicago for less money) but the people were also more professional aged. The problem in Boston was that it was a college town. At the age of 25, I started getting bored with the people that I found out at night and with the nightlife scene.
I moved to Chicago to get my MBA and noticed that at night the life was more young professional than college students. In addition, the life in Chicago had a slower, more relaxed pace to it. The people were nice and I fell in love with the city. My daughter was born there.
Then my wife (a native of Madrid, Spain) Maria decided that she wanted to move back home. We thought that it was going to be imposible for economic reasons but then I got a great offer for Madrid (It was a drop in pay from what I was earning in Chicago but enough for us to live, or so I thought).
One thing that we did not consider was the cost of housing. Here in Madrid we are paying a lot for housing. In additon, gas is a lot more expensive (2x) and taxes are a lot higher (for example, any money above my base salary is taxed at about 48%).
Overall I am happy about the move for personal reasons and professionally I think that I am learning a lot but I think that were I to move back to the US I would have better quality of life.
When moving back to the US I would look for a fast growing city with low housing prices and warm weather. I would have said Atlanta until things started to slow a bit.
I hope that this helps.

Catherine

We chose to settle in the Washington, DC area - Arlington, VA. I say "we" because my boyfriend (now husband) and I made the decision together, our first major one as a couple.

We started dating shortly after we graduated from UVA. We both went to graduate school in different places - he went to law school at UVA and I attended the IMBA program at the University of Chicago. He then landed in Boston working for a law firm for a year while I finished my second year of school (1999-2000).

I accepted a position with a "virtual" consulting firm, so I could live anywhere in the continental US (with airport access), and my husband decided he really wanted to move into the start-up/venture space. We were also considering Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco.

We decided to live in the DC area for a few reasons: 1.) his family lives in DC, mine is in Richmond, and we have a number of friends in the area; 2.) the DC area was more "livable" than many other major cities (but the gap has been closing in recent years); 3.) the area offers many professional and cultural opportunties/experiences.

We lived in an apartment for three years in a popular metro rail-accessible area in Arlington (Courthouse). The demand for higher-end apartments was so high in the summer of 2000, I ended up selecting one while wearing a hard hat. The apartment complex actually moved people in by floor as the construction was being completed, so we got in on the fourth floor.

Looking back, we wish we had purchased a condo instead, as the real estate market skyrocketed while we were renting. Still, it was nice not to worry about a mortgage as the economy tanked in 2001.

We purchased a 1950s house further west in Arlington in 2003, where we live now with our young son. We are happy here--although a house with more updates and space (especially larger closets!) would be nice.

We still love San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago so there is a possibility we could return there, but I'd say our top choice for a place to live other than the DC area would be Charlottesville- it has a special place in our hearts.

Dave

I have lived in Washington, DC, San Francisco, Tacoma, WA, and Boston. On my blog, I'm writing little blurbs about my choices to move to each place. Here is the first Boston piece (permalink at http://blog.davewrites.com/index.php?title=choice_of_place_boston_1&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1)

I chose Boston twice. First, when I graduated high school from Isle of Wight Academy in Smithfield, VA, I went to Boston to attend MIT. Smithfield is "The Ham Capital of the World." Boston is "The Hub of the Solar System."

Practically speaking, I chose MIT (or rather, they let me in, after wait-listing me) and lived mostly in Cambridge. But it was my dream to move to a big exciting city where I could find greater acceptance and opportunity. When I was still a high school senior, before I actually was admitted, I flew up to Boston, rented a car (mistake), and went over to MIT to check things out.

It was a cold, almost rainy May day, and it was quite an adventure for me to go there all alone driving a rental car in Boston! But I knew it was a place I belonged almost immediately. I attended a couple classes, but you can't really tell much from that--what really struck me, what I remember 21 years later, are the gritty little details of driving through the Sumner Tunnel, getting a bit lost in the North End, desperately finding a parking spot near campus, and walking around the city/campus. Then later, driving across the Harvard Bridge and getting lost again and finally deciding I should just get back to the airport!

It is a very urban campus; it's no UVA or William and Mary (my other choices). Those visits had been warm spring days with beautiful weather. Charlottesville is a bucolic setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains and both are steeped in history and tradition. MIT was a cold (literally), somewhat dirty, mess of concrete and asphalt in the middle of a city. It appealed to my sense of challenge and adventure; not only because of the MIT education, but because I would get to live in such a fascinating place that I knew about primarily from Cheers.

I remember thinking how the weather and reception (at MIT, I basically just walked around the campus, whereas at UVA and W&M, they recruited me.) served as a real test of whether or not this is what I wanted...no illusions...it was not one of those beautiful crisp days I have come to love--it was gray and cold and threatening to snow. But I was hooked and I returned home hoping against hope that I would eventually be accepted in off the wait list so I could move to Boston.

I lived in Cambridge and Boston from 1985-1990, leaving to go to law school. I returned in 2002...to be continued...

Sarah

I picked New Orleans as my home well before I wound up living here--on the "sliver by the river", the tiny segment of the city that was untouched by floodwaters. I moved here because it was the anti-Atlanta (my hometown) and seemingly anti-America: I walk to the store--a small, family run store; I know my neighbors and they know me; the architecture is unique and reminds one of history; the culture is its own--not imported or borrowed or imitated; New Orleans just feels authentic, somehow. One is proud to live here, but not in a stand-offish way (read: New Yorkers). Plus, it's 75% democrat (a big deal to me).

I looked at New York: too expensive. I looked at Atlanta: too many cars. I looked at Chicago: too cold.

So I came here ten years ago with an English degree, a certificate in mixology (a bartending license), and I tended bar and made music for four years. A lack of health insurance drove me back to school. Now, I am a teacher at the University of New Orleans. It is less romantic, but I still have my fun.

I discovered New Orleans on a vacation with my mother. Within a few months, she'd lost me. Luckily, my family has learned to love my adopted city, too. They have even helped in the rebuilding effort.

Unfortunately, life here after Katrina is significantly tougher than it was before the storm. There are the obvious reasons: devastation, an uncertain future, the mental hardship that accompanies the guilt of being okay. What's been worse is that it has become harder to live here in a sense that I think is true to other cities but was once less true of New Orleans. The cost of living is up, significantly, while wages have remained stagnant. I realize now that I am part of a middle class that cannot afford to buy a home, but is too wealthy to get help. I have debt from my many months of evacuation, and my rent has gone up.

Still, I stay. And I have no plans to leave. It may sound strange, but I believe that it is important NOT to insulate myself from suffering. I guess that's one of the biggest reasons I have for choosing New Orleans as my home. Seeing death and hardship makes me more grateful for what I have. If I were to do it again, I wouldn't change a thing. Well--I might have been more politically active BEFORE the levees broke. Thankfully, the storm washed away our laissez-faire attitude, and we are down here fighting to call ours "Home."

Andromeda

Sorry, not up for sparkling prose today, but your questions intrigue me...

Tell me about the place you live.

I live in Somerville, MA, a city in the inner ring of Boston suburbs. Though not Boston proper, Somerville has the highest population density in the state, is highly walkable, and is laced with public transit (though not equally in all neighborhoods). Historically working-class, it has had a revival (in the western half...) brought about by the extension of the subway 20 years ago; it's now a heavily Hispanic city in the east and a young, overeducated city in the west, lots of grad students and programmers. It's basically well-governed except for fascist parking tickets and snow emergencies.

Why did you pick your city or region?

After graduating from college in southern California, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but was very clear I didn't want to do it in southern California. I missed the changing seasons (I'm from WV, which doesn't have enough of an economy to return to) and I hated the shallowness of the place, the way everyone was obsessed with what happened next and history seemed evanescent. Boston seemed culturally and geographically about as far from LA as I could get without actually leaving the country. It has a good economy and a ton of grad school prospects, so I figured it would support whatever I ended up doing. And, well, to be honest, my long-time boyfriend (now husband) had just graduated from MIT and liked it here.

What other kinds of places did you look at?

Didn't consider anywhere else when I moved here. Last year, while contemplating the insanely terrifying housing market, we looked at Nashua, NH and Providence, RI, which are both lovely places -- Nashua has a friendly small-town vibe but with a lot of cultural amenities and reminded me a lot of my hometown (a place I quite liked aside from the economy), and Providence offered all the positives of Boston (culture, food, scenery, colleges, transit...) on a smaller scale, and both were enormously cheaper. However, I would've had to give up my job in either with no good prospects of getting a similar one, and my husband's commute would have become dreadful (though he had some prospects in his industry in those places), and we weren't wanting to make the leap if we didn't have to. An additional year of savings and the considerate tanking of the local housing market spared us the trouble, and we own a house in Somerville as of this summer.

How has that choice affected the rest of your life? Your job or career? Friends, family, or romantic interests?

Hm. My social circle contais a lot of his college friends in addition to my own. We live in one of the best economies for what he does (programming) and one of the only strong markets for what I do (Latin teaching -- something I settled on after moving here) which is nice, despite the cost of living. I did, in fact, have a lot of options when I went back to grad school to get an MA before teaching. Our soon-to-be-born kid will have educational opportunities I could not even dream of when I was little...if we can afford them. We live a lot closer to my family than I did when growing up (they're still mostly in other states but, you know, closer other states), which I hope will let my kid be closer to its relatives than I was. My romantic prospects were not altered at all -- I married the person I moved here to be with ;).

Fulfillment and fun?

I've discovered candlepin bowling and become an avid cyclist (commuting and long-distance, both of which are extremely well-supported and relatively popular locally; I didn't know how to bike before moving here). The commuter biking in particular has become a major part of my identity.

Real estate jackpots or money pits?

See above about having just bought a house in Somerville. My mortgage is three times what my parents' was -- my mortgage on my starter house, compared to the one they just paid off on the place they live now. Well, technically, my mortgage is more like five times theirs; we went in with a friend on a two-family because single-families are basically unaffordable here. But our share is "only" three times theirs.

Would you do it differently next time?

I don't think so. If we'd given Providence and Nashua credence earlier, before forced to look at them out of desperation, we might have felt more flexible about ultimately living there, and been able to evaluate the financial aspect more soberly, but we have been happy with our lives here all along, so we would have been disinclined to leave either way.

What cities and regions are on your radar for the future and why?

Again, I just bought a house :). I have no intention of leaving this area, ever.

My mother was raised in New England, and I always was a bit of a Yankee at heart. I have everything I need or want here, aside from a fairy godmother to pay off the mortgage. My kid can get a spectacular education, my husband can make more than our parents ever made at his job (even if we then have to pay it out in cost-of-living...), my friends live here and are increasingly buying property here...It's a good place.

Tracey

Tell me about the place you live. Why did you pick your city or region? How did you go about picking it - what was your strategy? What other kinds of places did you look at? How has that choice affected the rest of your life? Your job or career? Friends, family, or romantic interests? Fulfillment and fun? Real estate jackpots or money pits? Would you do it differently next time? What cities and regions are on your radar for the future and why?


I live in the historic section of Alexandria, Virginia, known as Old Town. It is a fabulous place to live since it’s within walking distance to just about everything one could need; and, if it’s not within walking distance, it’s within a 10 mile radius which includes the hub of Washington, D.C.

From the apex of the District, Old Town is just a short 10 minute drive along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The parkway spans the Potomac River and offers glorious views of the majestic monuments reflecting off the water or bathing in the moon’s light. I’ve lived in many homes and most were chosen due to their proximity to the parkway. If you’ve got to commute, why not enjoy the ride?

Old Town offers an array of places to eat, shop and play. Restaurants run the gamut from Thai and Japanese to Greek and French, and most have no affiliation to a national chain. There’s an historic, one screen movie theater that not only plays first run movies but also showcases various live talent. In addition, there are two live theaters, many museums and historical sites, a parade or event for just about every holiday, and even a doggie happy hour. That’s right, a happy hour that caters to our four-legged friends. It’s a hot spot, particularly for singles with dogs. And let’s not forget to mention the Potomac River where folks sail, kayak and bike the lengthy path that trails the river for miles.

My love of Old Town and the area in general has indeed impacted my romantic life. Recently, I feel in love with a wonderful man, but he lived a hour away in a place that offered little more than a few fast food restaurants and weekends full of kids’ softball games. I loved him and I loved his kids, but I couldn’t adjust to the lifestyle. It was not a good fit. I need the vibe and stimulation of seeing people on the streets, hearing music from windows above, and smelling the aroma of exotic foods.

The real estate market in Old Town is what’s to be expected. It’s costly to live here, and anyone who wants an historic home in a cosmopolitan location near D.C. has got to pay. But, it’s worth it. Homes historically retain their value and more often than not, appreciate at a higher rate than those further out. I am fortunate to own two historic homes here and I can safely say that when and if I “cash” out, I am sure to have enough equity to pay for a nice home in another region of Virginia or further south. It’s a lot easier to go from here to there then from there to here. People who move to Old Town from other regions of the country where you can buy a 2,500 sq ft. home for $250,000 are in for a shock when they see the hefty prices found here. It’s very common to pay more than $600,000 for much less square footage and not uncommon to see prices soar past $1,000,000. But again, it’s the lifestyle. It’s all a matter of choice.

Victor Schwartzman

Dear Richard:

I moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1983--for a job. To be the Executive Director of an Unemployed Help Centre.

At first it seemed quite insane.

Winnipeg is kinda far North, at least compared with Florida. It’s an eight hour drive from Minneapolis, which is in the North Central United States. When I first moved here, during January and February it was frequently -30 Celsius or colder (global warming has since changed that a bit). That is with NO wind. When you kick in the wind chill factor, the temperatures periodically hit -40 Celsius. I couldn’t say it also got worse, because when it is that cold, who cares?

My daughter actually put her tongue on a metal railing on our front porch, and her tongue froze to the railing. Had to melt it off with warm water!

The Summer was just as bad, but opposite: my first Summer it was around +35 Celsius, so hot that the air conditioning systems in several large downtown buildings went on the fritz and people were sent home. Plus, the whole city is build on a swamp, so just when the weather gets warm, swarms of mosquitoes are suddenly everywhere. When it gets really bad, the city sprays them with Malathion, a type of nerve gas that will probably give us all cancer in twenty years.

You might think, well at least Fall and Spring are nice. They are, for the two or three weeks each lasts.

Plus just outside of Winnipeg is the second flattest place on Earth. Typical for Canada—not even the first flattest! We are so modest! Cancer rates among farmers are too high, also. It is a prairie city, hundreds of miles away from any other large city.

Sounds awful, doesn’t it?

Well, on the other hand, you dress for the weather. A parka works pretty good in the winter, and you can spray insect repellant on yourself in the Summer. The isolation of the city means it has created its own extensive community of artists, musicians, theatres, and so on. And you can network and be effective on social issues much more easily in a city of under 700,000. The people can be quite friendly and there are plenty of opportunities to mix and meet. Housing is the cheapest in Canada. And don’t forget socialized medicine, where it’s all paid for through your taxes.

In the end, Winnipeg turned out to be a very good choice, and a fine place to raise my family. I’m glad I’m here. Heck, if I lived in the Bahamas, I’d probably get skin cancer!

Keely Saye

Dear Richard,

Columbia, South Carolina seemed like a natural place to settle down for a small-town girl looking to stay in the “big city” when I graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2000. A robust and growing place, Columbia was not overwhelming or intimidating coming from Johnston, SC – population 2,300. Traffic conditions are good; housing is affordable; and the opportunities are endless.

It wasn’t until I dove in head first into the young professional scene that I realized how much opportunity really existed in Columbia, but it was fragmented. Like many southern cities, racial tensions flare and the good-ole-boy network puts a damper on the forward movement. But today, Columbia is coming together like never before offering more opportunities for young professionals to develop their careers in a socially attractive atmosphere.

Networking with like-minded people led myself and other city leaders to develop COR, or Columbia Opportunity Resource, to bridge the gaps in our leadership structures. Emulated by Memphis’ MPACT Memphis organization, COR has become the hub for young professionals to filter in through the organization and out into the community fostering leadership development and community involvement. Diversity being a core value, COR empowers my generation of young professionals to make our city a better place and increase the number of interracial civic, political, social, and business relationships in Columbia.

Columbia often suffers from a stigma that implies our local economy is engulfed by state government and lack of education. After living here for more than eight years, I see first hand how that perception hurts Columbia, but perception is not reality in this case. Many successful economic development and educational initiatives are underway transforming the economic landscape of Columbia and South Carolina as a whole. The University of South Carolina’s Innovista research campus and Future Fuels™ initiatives have the potential to catapult the state into the new economy raising per capita income levels and creating jobs in a knowledge based economy.

It’s the beginning of a very bright future, and I’m excited to be a part of it as the opportunities continue to blossom right in front of me. I would much rather be involved in the cutting edge of something great than an already-booming economy where there isn’t much opportunity to mold the future. Columbia has great people and a ton of momentum with the growing young professional population influencing change and taking the city by storm!

Keely Saye

Ashley Sherry

My home is in Columbia, South Carolina. A town full of amazing people, rich in history, always in season, strong in character, and alive in business. Columbia, SC is the capital of South Carolina and is making headway in a variety of business ventures.

After receiving a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Clemson University (one of the top 30 public schools in the nation), I wanted a bigger city to work in, where my career in public relations and marketing could thrive and where I would be able to network among top leaders in the state. I didn’t know a lot about Columbia, I only knew that a young Clemson grad would be immersed in Carolina Gamecocks…the rival college. I soon realized Columbia has a great city life, night life and is rich in cultural aspects. Downtown, the Vista and even historic areas have been revitalized and are truly beautiful. Let’s not forget…the hospitality is second-to-none.

By moving to Columbia, I have found the best job. I am very career-oriented and I have had success in my career here and been promoted as a result of it. I work for one of the top, most well-known companies in Columbia and can’t imagine being anywhere else at this time in my life. I love my job, have the ability to network with like-minded professionals and I am strongly involved in the business community, especially with groups such as COR and SCPRSA. I have been given numerous opportunities to build professionally and personally here in Columbia.

Luckily, I have met some of my closest friends in Columbia. I have met some amazing people and I am close to my family (only 2 hours away). My brother even moved here after he finished college at The University of Florida. It has been great to be so close to him. I have not met my future husband yet…but that will come in time!

As for fulfillment and fun, I’ve done so much just in the past 6 months. From enjoying the ballet and various theater productions, to dining and drinking at some of the newest restaurants and bars, just having the amenities available makes hanging out with friends or going on dates even more fun! Let’s not forget the endless possibilities on the Lake or a quick drive to the beach.

Recently, I looked at moving back to Atlanta (my hometown) or Indianapolis. I chose to stay here, despite the many job offers. I didn’t want to leave my current job. I liked the people I met here and I wanted to stay in the south. The opportunities for advancement, buying a home and keeping in touch with my close friends greatly outnumbered some of the benefits of moving. I felt secure here. I am still young, but it has been a good choice so far.

Some of the best real estate is in Columbia and with the quality of life and amenities, it is one of the top places in America to live and to retire to. Part of me has always wanted to live in Chicago or New York, buy an apartment downtown and walk most everywhere. Who knows what the future holds, but right now, the sunny south is where I call home.

Gary Lockwood

I live in Kent, Ohio and I first moved here in 1969 as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against The War and what really attached it's self to me here was cultural creativity that I found here. There was then and still is now a wonderful vibrant art community. It lurks around the corners and in the dark spots in the alleys and all a crossed the campus of Kent State University.
This is an old community founded in 1806 on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. Of course the railroads followed the rivers and was a large part of the early community. It also brought lots of different folks into these parts. Peoples of all colors came and settled here and their creative spirit survives here today.
I have lived on both coasts and as far south as Mexico and as far north as Alaska. All in all about 12 states have been home to me. But it is the creative pull that keeps bringing me back to Kent. Creative energy seems to hang from the Weeping Willow trees by Brady Lake, from the leaves of the Red Maple trees in Towners Woods in the fall, in the corn fields as well as the orchards that dot the landscape.
Our town is a small town with a university located pretty much right on the edge of town. It is a short walk from downtown Kent to the campus of Kent State University. There are times when I make that walk that I can almost see trails of creative energy from those that walked before me on these same side walks. So if you are looking for a wonderful, quiet, creative and friendly town to move to I would suggest Kent, Ohio. Before you make the trip go to www.standingrock.net and see just what I am talking about.

Peace through the Arts

Maureen Morris

Partially raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, I have family residing here. After my divorce, my two kids and I returned to Salt Lake City from Seattle for two reasons;family/friends and skiing. Or specifically, the natural beauty in this region is unsurpassed. I am able to get into the mountains within minutes. It is possible to cycle from my front door and shortly, be in one of the six canyons that frames the eastern edge of the city. The snow is light and fluffy, the winters are snowy and sunny, the springs are green and cool, the fall is perfect here and the summers, even though they are too hot for me, are negotiated by the fact that Salt Lake City is centrally located between the west coast, the Rocky Mountains and the northern playgrounds of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Dont get me wrong, I have loved living in the Bay Area and Seattle. I loved Seattle the most. I was filled with mixed feelings coming back to Salt Lake City because of its conservative base. It is slowly changing though as more and more people recognize the unigue opportunities given by a mixed geography. Have you seen Southern Utah? It simply cant be beat, well maybe it can, every state/city has its offerings but none are as close to the mountains that surrounds Salt Lake.

Steve Hoffman

Growing up an Army brat, I lived in three countries and eight states before my 18th birthday. After high school, I relocated six more times for career opportunities. My profession has brought me to Chicago, Madison, WI, Pasadena, Ann Arbor, Long Island, and finally, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Until my current job relocation to the Northern Plains, I never lived anywhere my entire life more than four consecutive years. Accepting the challenge to start a new cultural institution in South Dakota’s largest city in 1997, at 41 years old, I am in my tenth year calling Sioux Falls home.

What instantly attracted me to Sioux Falls was the people. While more conservative than previous communities where I worked, I quickly saw how much Sioux Falls leaders wanted the best quality of life for its citizens and, as a result, how this new cultural institution I would develop could not fail. While many challenges were ahead, I had continuous reassurances that my efforts would be successful – from government, education, religious and other community groups. This cultural attraction would be the biggest change the community would see in this generation.

Upon moving to Sioux Falls, I was quickly reminded how many cultural amenities were not available in this 90% white and homogenous community. Not only were there minimal amounts of arts activities, the restaurant choices were ethnically sparse with most options starting with a populous “Mc”. In the two years it would take to open the facility, I spent most of my travel time in other cities experiencing their cultural cuisine while telling my fellow community members that culture begets culture and with the opening of the new institution other food choices, such as Sushi and Thai would become available.

Within one year of the cultural institution’s doors opening, a Sushi restaurant opened two blocks away from the downtown destination. Seven years later it is still one of the best restaurants in the region. Vietnamese, African, Ethiopian, and Indian restaurants have also opened in the past half decade.

The media added cultural reporters and increased their arts and humanities segments. Even the City Council meetings seemed to be driven more and more by challenging discussions of new cultural attraction options to the community as well as ipso facto increases in economic development and enhanced recruitment and retention tools these efforts helped produce.

In a welcoming community where people genuinely greet each other when passing in the grocery store, I have found love and found home while also embracing indigenous activities such as Native American cultural celebrations, fishing and even hunting. Having lived in some of the most cultural communities in the country, I am thrilled and honored to be an active part of the Sioux Falls community. Whenever I travel, it is only a matter of hours before I am ready to return to my precious life. But, for a brief instant, that feeling is dismissed when I find a Thai restaurant – until we finally get one in my Midwest haven.

Donna

Like many others I find your book/theme "Cultural Creatives" intriguing. Yet, as I read down through the posted comments I find my reason for moving to my current home is very different than most others.

After a 30 year career in communications, mostly sitting behind a computer and making a "I needed it yesterday" deadline, I knew that the highly stressful lifestyle was going to put me in the hospital or worse yet, kill me.

Six years ago my husband Gene (2nd marriage at age 45 (me) and 50 (he)and I moved from the city of Kalamazoo, MI (Population 250,000) to the very rural Allegan County in Southwestern Michigan.

We chose this area because it was 1) affordable 2) in keeping with our vision of homesteading and art business creating.

We wanted to have control over the food we eat and the water we drink (we grow our own organic vegetables in season and keep chickens for organic eggs) and we wanted to live a more out-of-doors lifestyle, working with our hands in an organic, creative and self-sufficient manner.

We also wanted to tap into the growing artist community found here. As a hand papermaking artist (I make my art using handmade paper I grown from plants) I built an art gallery White Oak Studio & Gallery and taped into the arts alliance of the Blue Coast Artists www.bluecoastartists.com as a member studio.

All Blue Coast members are working artists and open their studios seasonally, May through October. We ban together with our advertising and hold joint open houses attracting tourists, vacationers and second home owners to our area. Together we are an economic force in our rural area.

My husband, an amateur blacksmith built his blacksmith forge on our 5 acre property.

I also "craved" to garden in a big, big way and I am able to do that here having created large vegetable and flower gardens that give us beauty, flowers and plants to sell and vegetables to eat.

Valuing organics and a healthy enviroment, every decision we make we make with the health of the earth (and ourselves) as our top priority.

Life here is physically harder and more isolated than we thought it would be. (I thought there would be more community in our rural area and have found, suprisingly, the opposite is true.)

I would defintely do more research next time before moving and perhaps even go to the area I was contimplating moving to and rent for a number of months before investing in a home.

The down side has also been the hard physical labor which in our 50's and 60's has been sometimes difficult and living below the "poverty line" has been a real challenge as well. (in the summer I can easily spend 30 to 40 hours a week in my garden and in the winter when we get a big snow storm I may spend three to six hours shoveling snow out of our driveways!)

Yet, for its downsides, we live in a beautiful area with many natural resources like huge wooded tracks of state land that was can hike in for free, beautiful lakes to fish in and we live only 20 minutes from Lake Michigan. There is year-round hunting, fishing, birdwatching camping and kayaking available here.

We spend much time out of doors enjoying the natural beauty found here. We are content most days to take our 3 year old Labrador Retreiver, "Spirit" for a run and enjoy like I did yesterday, 30 to 40 snow beautfiul white geese flying over my head. At night I can walk out in my wooded back yard and see the stars or hear the hoot of the owl in the nearby woodlot.

Our life here is spiritual, satisfying and very creative. In the end, the "run for the money" seems to be a empty cup and our life instead is full, rich and satisfying.


LAWRENCE  STREETER

MY CITY IS TO ME MY LITTLE CORNER OF THE WORLD SIMPLY BECAUSE IT IS ON THE SHORES OF LAKE MICHIGAN,BENTON HARBOR.WITH THE WORLD SURFACE BEING 70 PERCENT WATER AND 2O% IS FRESH WATER,ABOUT 5% OF THAT IS IN THE GREAT LAKES.THROUGH OUR LAKE FRONT PARK WE HAVE DIRECT ACCESS TO THE REST OF THE WORLD.LET NOTHING IMPEDE OR BLOCK THIS ACCESS.MAN MADE PROJECTS AND HIS SO CALL DEVELOPMENT IS OUR BIGGEST THREAT.WE NOW IS FACING THE THREAT OF A GOLF COURSE,HOTELS,HOUSES.THEIR IS PLENTY OF NEAR BY LAND FOR THIS KIND OF DEVELOPMENT.

Christine Ward

Hello. My name is Christine. I live in the main city of Lapeer County, the city of Lapeer. Lapeer County is basically a farming community located in Michigan 45 minutes away from Flint. I chose to move here because I had previously moved in with my mother in Imlay City on a 40 acre parcel but had no car, so I moved to the closest city where everything, the drug store, grocery store, and clothing store were walking distance.

People in Lapeer are very friendly as they are mostly farmers or from farming areas. I belong to a great church where everyone supports me, but it seems to be all married people and I am single.

As an artist without a car it has not done much for me in the way of work, but I am planning on getting a car so that I may drive to places there is work. I don't know if I would move here again or not...I only know the initial choice was because I had nowhere to go and needed family. I am planning on trying traveling to the city to work, but if I am not successful enough, I will relocate, because there is not much work in this rural area.

for a family settling down, It would be great, where a husband goes to work and Mom stays home with the kids, but for a single mom, it has it's ups and downs. There are a great number of great kids, but one has to look far away to find someone with a whole lot in common when they are single as all adults seem to be married and all young adults pair up quickly.

It is a quiet city and pleasant, but sometimes I just want to pick up and move. Doing so would take alot of courage when you are a single mom and need a support system.

Also, the Michigan economy is the worst in the USA.

Lapeer is also next to Flint which was voted second highest in crime and seems to be becoming not so safe a place anymore as we have had a string of murders and milder crimes happen in this farming community.

I would say that if one wanted to live in Michigan and raise a child by themselves, and have an art career, they should move to a rural area near Ann Arbor or Grand Rapids and stay far away from Lapeer. But, if you're like me and have established roots and a good support system you should consider traveling for work and staying put.

Lou M

I just wanted to say how disappointed I was in Mr Floridas assessment of Buffalo, NY, especially in comparison to its neighbor Rochester. Where Buffalo is and was built as an actual city...Rochester but a mere connection of suburbs and small towns. Where Buffalo is actually diverse with multiple retail districts and urban neighborhoods it does not market itself as diverse....whereas Rochester is segregated by income and class in each suburb/small town and because it has more Fortune 500 companies...it markets itself as diverse. Yes, Rochester meets corporate diversity but you wont see it on the streets and lives like you would in Buffalo.

Also its true Buffalo is a poorer city than Rochester but it is much more diverse economically with enormous economic and business potentials from Film&TV production, trade&logistics, telecommunications&ecomerce, power generation&alternative energy, transportation, industry, business services, etc. Id rather refer to Buffalo as having a diversity of income....where in Rochester there are very few jobs in the low income range.

Its to bad that Mr Florida seems to believe the corporate marketing hype boosting Rochester while missing the pulse and personality of Buffalo. Mr Florida, take a personal interest in Buffalo and get your nose out of the numbers and see what Buffalo is about instead of painting your only picture by marketing statistics and demographics

Frank the Tank

My story is more about where I ended up within my home region, which could well be considered a microcosm of the country. Except for my 4 years attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I have lived my entire life in the Chicago area. That being said, I grew up in the south suburbs (solidly middle class) and have lived in the north suburbs (upper crust families), the south side of the city (mainly immigrants), and the north side of the city (young professionals), which were all vastly different environments.

However, when it came to buy a house with my wife, we settled on Naperville, a large suburb located 30 miles west of the Chicago Loop. We chose Naperville based on the "fundamentals": the public schools are rated among the best in the state, the real estate prices compared to other towns with similarly ranked schools were relatively reasonable (although not inexpensive in absolute terms), express commuter train service to my job in downtown Chicago, and a vibrant suburban downtown with great restaurants and entertainment. Besides being the location of my job, the city of Chicago itself is top notch on all levels, whether the discussion is about the diversity of the economy, cultural institutions, architecture, 24-hour atmosphere, or unique neighborhoods.

There are only two places that I would ever remotely consider leaving the Chicago area for: (1) New York because of the professional opportunities and it being a top center for nearly every industry and (2) San Diego because it combines a growing tech industry with perfect weather.

Otherwise, I feel blessed to not only call myself a Chicagoan, but also be confident that my home region is going to be on the upswing for a long time.

Melinda

Hello,

I moved to Portland, Oregon over 10 years ago from Texas. I'd always wanted to get out of the South, away from heat and humidity, and I also wanted to live somewhere beautiful.

One night, I was having dinner with friends and was once again complaining about how ugly the Dallas area was and how intolerable the heat and humidity. Not only that, but a very very UNqualified George W. Bush had just beaten the best governer Texas ever had, Ann Richards. That in and of itsself was enough reason to migrate north.

Tired of my complaining, my friend told me she was moving to Portland, Oregon and asked if I wanted to go along. Even though I knew NOTHING about Portland (except that it was somewhere in Oregon) I said "sure".

The next morning after the several alcoholic drinks I drank the night before had cleared my system and I was able to think a little more clearly, I decided "Why Not?" I quit my state job, withdrew my retirement money, sold my furniture, packed the cat and we moved to Portland.

Spending my "retirement money" and moving to Portland was the BEST decision I ever made.

Portland turned out to be BEAUTIFUL and near the mountains. I'd never seen MOUNTAINS before! Portland is progressive, liberal, WEIRD (indeed there are bumperstickers everywhere that say "Keep Portland Weird", environmentally conscious, creative, the weather suits me GREAT (I rarely have migraines anymore) and I had no idea how naturally curly my hair was until my first wet, cool winter in Portland.

I'd rather live in a tent under a bridge in Portland than in a mansion in Texas.

The people here are a little hard to get to know, but once you do, they are just as nice as any small town folks but MUCH more open- minded and accepting of others.

It's been 10 years and 7 months since I moved here and I still haven't been back to Texas.

Christine Smith

I currently live in Dayton, OH. I did not choose the city, but I like living here. I am an academic, and this is where my dream job happened to be. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and Dayton is a small version of Pittsburgh...industrial, working-class sensibility, beautiful old architecture.

There are some pros and some cons to living here. I can afford a beautiful old Victorian because housing is cheap and taxes are relatively low. I am about an hour from 2 bigger cities, Cincinnati and Columbus. There are some decent ethnic restaurants, an arts scene,and a real chance to make a difference because it isn't an overwelmingly huge place. For some reason, if you like antiques, this place is a mecca for that. I'm a lesbian, and my partner and I live next to a woman who is in a band that has national acclaim (we joke that by "Creative Class" standards, we are together raising our neighbor's property values:) There are worse places to be gay, but it ain't no San Francisco either.

The cons are that the economy is bad, the place is being overrun by chain stores and restaurants, the downtown is pretty much deserted. We just built one of those suburban malls that look like town centers. So the downtown is abandoned so people can imitate it in the suburbs...makes no sense to me.

But I plan on staying. I grew up in Pittsburgh in the 1980s when the area was decimated by the collapse of the steel industry. Dayton feels like home in many ways.

But if I could live anywhere, I would live in one of three places: Portland (Oregon), NYC, or San Francisco. But I can't find a job there, and the last two are prohibitively expensive for me. I moved here from Fargo, ND, and believe me, Dayton looks like the shining city on the hill compared to Fargo.

Michael Wells

I moved to Portland, Oregon in 1966, having spent my early 20’s playing Jack Kerouac between the San Francisco Bay Area and New York. I met my (now ex-) wife in Cambridge and when we came West she found my Berkeley friends too wild, we had both been to Portland before and so we said “why not?” Having a plan or strategy would never have occurred to us.

Portland was an overgrown lumber town with a small bohemian fringe -- no bookstores, galleries, poetry readings, etc. I thought “I’ll be out of here in a year”. But I stayed, and I’ve talked to many who share the same basic story. So why do we stay? Of course there’s the outdoors, mountains and beach both within an hour’s drive, and it’s the cheapest big city on the West Coast (although still spendy by Midwest standards).

But Portland grows on you. It’s a very easy city to be connected. During the time I’ve lived here I’ve known most of the Mayors, much of the city council, state reps and have one friend who was in Congress for a decade. I doubt if that would be true in most other places. I also know lots of artists of various kinds, businesspeople big and small, etc. and it’s easy to move between groups and mix them. I’ve always had gay friends, and I think they feel they fit into the general culture. On the other hand I know some minorities, particularly Blacks, feel isolated.

We live in an arty neighborhood in the close-in Northwest Portland hills, 5 minutes to downtown. We know everyone on our block and most on the surrounding blocks, many of them are friends. There’s a neighborhood e-mail list for block watch and events. An annual block party that closes off a street in the summer.

During the time I’ve been here Portland has become a real city, with arts and books and music, etc. If there had been a Creative Index in1966 or even 1986, Portland wouldn’t have scored in the top 25. Now it’s in the top 10, and deservedly so. I think the change has to do with openness, which has progressed from a sort of “live and let live” to real acceptance of different people. Darcelle, a 70 year old drag queen, is a beloved civic figure. The change is often attributed to the election of Neil Goldschmidt in 1972, but it says something about the city that it dropped the old line politicos who had run the City for decades for a 32 year old Jewish Legal Aid attorney.

Real estate jackpot? Seems like it, but it’s hard to tell. In 1972 we bought our first house, a 4,500 square foot brown shingle that we sold for four times what we paid in 1979. Jackpot. Then my next two houses during the 1980’s, one was break even, I actually lost money on the other. My current and permanent wife and I bought our present house in 1992 and according to Zillow it’s worth three times what we paid. Is triple value in the last 15 years a jackpot? The Dow did that well during the Clinton Administration. Portland is one of the “Supercities” that’s consistently gained value since 1940, but I didn’t know that until recently, it had no bearing on any decisions.

Future cities and why: Having grown up in rural central California, I have no desire to live in a small town or in the country. So the only places I’ve ever considered were big cities in the US and abroad. For decades I said to myself I’d end up back in Berkeley. But about 10 years ago I realized that all of the reasons I’d go there now exist in Portland. And while it’s true I can’t go across the Bay to San Francisco, I can jump on a plane and be there in 2 hours. Until about 2 years ago I said if I had $10 million I’d live in Manhattan. But now I realize I wouldn’t do that either. Reading the Creative Class books has helped me understand why, the living is easy here and most of what I want is accessible. Again, I can go to NYC for a few days, hit the big museums and little restaurants, walk the streets that are like no others and that’s really what I want. Of course having lifelong friends in Portland and children and grandchildren up and down the West Coast is also a big factor.

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