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May 31, 2008

My latest Globe and Mail column is out.

This week, the mayor of Canada's biggest city did something remarkable: He basically declared war on firearms. In response to several highly publicized shootings, David Miller announced that he wants Toronto's City Council to crack down on gun clubs, firing ranges and businesses that manufacture, assemble and distribute weapons.

“Do we as a society value safety, or do we value a hobby that creates danger?” he asked. “That hobby directly results in people being shot and killed on the streets of our city.”

Not surprisingly, Mr. Miller's bold move has generated a great deal of controversy. At the same time, it reflects a growing trend in the world's major cities.

Just as he is taking the lead in trying to control guns, figures such as Michael Bloomberg in New York City, Richard Daley in Chicago, Job Cohen in Amsterdam and Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, have explored new approaches to everything from education, crime and smoking bans to environment and climate change – even bringing modern management techniques to government. While there remains more work to do, their efforts and those of their peers have made their jurisdictions safer, smarter, greener, more aesthetic, more efficient, wealthier and more globally competitive.

Overall, these mayors, as well as premiers and governors, are proving themselves to be much more in tune with global trends than are heads of state and national leaders.


Continue reading "Mayors of the World, Unite!" »

May 30, 2008

Richard Florida

Model Suburb?

As they swell, the suburbs are changing. Perhaps none ever quite resembled the colourless domestic enclaves popularised by 1970s television programmes such as “The Brady Bunch”; now, they look nothing at all like them. America's suburbs are ethnically and demographically mixed—sometimes more so than its cities. Many are less dormitories than economic powerhouses.

This is from an interesting, if somehow conflicted, Economist article on America's suburbs.  As I point out in WYC, there is no one suburban model.  Close-in suburbs on  transit links in and around "super-star cities" are likely to fare very, very well. Far-ff exurbs, not so much. Suburbs come in many styles and "flavors."  There are strollervilles, boho-burgs, family lands, new urbias, exurbs - the list goes on and on. Beyond this, there are real economic drivers that are transforming suburbia. One is of course rising fuel costs.  There are more options out there for "living" and tastes and preferences are changing and becoming more differentiated by group and across life-stage. One size no longer fits just about everyone.  And as I've stated here before, in  the idea-driven creative economy, time or "opportunity" costs increasingly matter to location choice.  A very interesting ongoing transformation indeed - one which is far from over.

Richard Florida

Super Star Cities

Ten Most Expensive Cities (Office Space)

1. London (West End), England
2. Moscow, Russia
3. Tokyo (Inner Central), Japan
4. Mumbai, India
5. Tokyo (Outer Central), Japan
6. London (City), England
7. New Delhi, India
8. Paris, France
9. Singapore
10. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The global market for office space remains very spiky.  The cost per square foot in London's West End was a whopping $229.54 per square foot. NYC's midtown market, ranked 13th, cost less than half that, $103.43 per square foot. Toronto’s central business district, ranked 47th, was a veritable bargain at $62.44; and suburban Los Angeles was 48th at $62.06.

Source: CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc. (CBRE) Research’s semi-annual Global Market Rents survey.

May 29, 2008

Richard Florida

Cities and Ambition

Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder ... A city speaks to you mostly by accident—in things you see through windows, in conversations you overhear. It's not something you have to seek out, but something you can't turn off.

This and much, much more in this fascinating new essay by Paul Graham (h/t: Ben Casnocha).

May 27, 2008

Dan Drezner believes that public intellectuals are back and that the blogosphere helps the cause. You can download his fascinating paper on the subject here.  In another post he mentions hs recent appearance on Steve Paiken's The Agenda (which he calls Canada's equivalent of Charlie Rose). Actually Steve's terrific show is but one of several Canadian broadcast venues for public intellectuals and informed and reasoned discourse. 

May 26, 2008


(Via Andrew Sullivan, original here).

May 25, 2008


"In terms of what I am doing, I would pretty much say hands down that Toronto is the best place in the world."  That's a quote from UoT chemical geneticist, Guri Giaever, in a feature story on Toronto's rising scientific prowess in Nature.Click here to download.  Add to that what is happening in physics at Waterloo and the mega-region is emerging as serious global scientific centers. I'd say the same thing about what we're doing at the Prosperity Institute and across the university in my field.

Richard Florida

Mega Ball


Mike Tanier over at Football Outsiders sees the power of the mega-region:

Buffalo has long been one of those in-between cities: small by international standards, but large enough to host the Bills and the NHL Sabres. Now, Buffalo is close to losing some of its big-league luster. The Bills will play three preseason and five regular season games in Toronto, starting this year and ending in 2012. The so-called Toronto Series is a likely precursor to a permanent move to Canada. ...

This region spans two nations: the Buffalo-Rochester area in western New York, and the Toronto metro area in southern Canada. Toronto is the financial capital of Canada, and if you yoke its economy onto Buffalo-Rochester’s, you get a powerhouse mega-region.

Richard Florida, economist and author of Who’s Your City?, explains the mega-region concept. “Mega-regions are the driving forces of the world economy. A mega-region is an area that hosts business and economic activity on a large scale, generating a lion’s share of the world’s economic activity and an even larger share of the world’s innovation and technological discoveries.” Toronto-Buffalo-Rochester (TBR) is one of just 40 significant mega-regions in the world. According to Florida, it’s responsible for $530 billion in economic output. It also ranks highly among world mega-regions in worldwide innovation patents and what Florida calls “star scientists,” two indicators that TBR is positioned to compete against other regions as a high-tech research and industrial center.

Strapping U.S. and Canadian cities together seems a little disingenuous at first, but Florida explains that it’s vital to everyone’s financial interests to think outside the borders of states and nations. “Much of our public policy ignores the rise of mega-regions and, sometimes, works against them. If we want to bolster economic competitiveness, policy leaders across country borders and state lines must pursue policies that take mega-regions into account.”

Buffalo and Toronto are just a few hours apart; Maple Leafs fans often travel to Buffalo when their teams play the Sabres, and Buffalo baseball fans often take day trips to watch the Blue Jays. By moving across the border and closer to the center of the TBR mega-region, the Bills can acquire a much-needed influx of corporate-caliber cash. “The Bills are like your parents who bought their house 50 years ago,” Robinson explained. “Their mortgage is paid off, so they don’t need a lot of income to get by.” The Wilson family can turn a tidy profit on television revenues, but the next owners will cough up as much as $800 million. They’ll need luxury box revenue and other income sources to offset their initial debts. “We don’t have a deep stable of companies,” Robinson said. “The Bills couldn’t dream of selling a PSL.” Ideally, Toronto would provide the companies, with Buffalo providing the loyal fan base.

It’s one thing to embrace macroeconomics, but quite another to root for a team that sings a different national anthem before games. While Bills fans are among the most loyal in the NFL, Robinson is not sure how many would follow the team to Canada, not when the Steelers, Browns, Jets, Giants, and Patriots offer attractive regional rooting interests. “Over time, it would settle into the relationship locals have with the Blue Jays,” Robinson said. “The Bills would be a nearby team to go to.”

However, the Toronto Series, with its multi-venue format, could help fans acclimate to the idea of a regional team. The Toronto Series allows the Rogers group to use the novelty and rarity of NFL football to charge super-premium prices to Toronto fans. At the same time, the Wilson family gets a $78 million payday from the Rogers group, and can also charge slightly more for games at Rich Stadium because of decreased supply. Over a period of a few seasons, the Wilsons and the Rogers conglomerate could tweak the 7-to-1 Buffalo-Toronto game arrangement. The Bills could end up playing four games in each venue, just as the Packers split time between Green Bay and Milwaukee in the 1970s and 80s.

Some fans may abandon the Bills if they become Canadians or vagabonds, but Florida sees a big difference between a move within the TBR region and a move to, say, Los Angeles. “Economic development, more than ever before, is about talent attraction and retention. Creative types are concentrating in communities that are open, diverse, and thick with an array of amenities. Major league sports help to create an authentic community, one that is appealing and engaging for people of all walks of life.” The designation “major league city” still means something in the world of high finance. Toronto will use pro football to enhance its international profile; the official Toronto Series website (www.billsintoronto.com) touts the city as “international, sophisticated, ethnically diverse, fascinating and passionate about sports.” That designation could apply to the whole TBR region, which could in turn use the Bills as a drawing card. “Authenticity is important to creative workers,” Florida said. “Professional sports teams, similar to a region’s arts community and its unique neighborhoods, help make a region unique.”

The Bills are one of the few things lending “authenticity” to Buffalo; without them (and the Sabres), Buffalo has little to offer that can’t be found in Elmira or Erie, Pennsylvania. “The Bills are our last lingering vestige of being a major league city,” Robinson said. “People take a lot of pride in them.” Re-imagine Buffalo as a small part of a thriving mega-region, and the fans of western New York can keep their allegiance to the Bills.

Even with a border in the way, the mega-region remains a big, growing  "commutable" market.  In Bos-Wash, Philly and DC are becoming the new suburbs so to speak, for those who can't afford or can't deal with the hustle and bustle of NYC but want a more "urban" alternative.  Buffalo can benefit from Toronto's market size and unrelenting growth. Already, Canadians are the no. 1 immigrant group in Buffalo. Who knows?  Eventually, as housing prices continue to rise in Toronto, Buffalo may well be able to capitalize on its huge housing cost advantage, combined with its lakefront, authentic neighborhoods, universities, healthcare system, and arts and cultural assets to begin to attract talent from the mega, and perhaps, the world.

And I'll sure be lining up for my Tor-Buf-Chester Bill's tickets.

May 24, 2008

Richard Florida

The National

The video is here. 

The segment is very well done. What I really like about it is that it takes you inside the Prosperity Institute, shows our newly renovated new space at MaRs (our incredible team got it ready that morning), and includes cameos by our research and administrative teams.

A highly controversial new book out by a speech writer for a high ranking Minister, across the pond in France is making all the rage.

What's the fuss you ask? - well, get a load of the title:  The book is called Guide des jolies femmes de Paris (Guide to the Pretty Women of Paris).  A bit of a self-help book to exploring the best Parisian "feminine specialties."  The book goes on to list the best spots in Paris for various parts of the female anatomy and other locations for typical hangouts, distinguished by female age-demographic in Paris.


I have been to Paris, but mainly relied on my Lonely Planet book to help me navigate through the streets to find the best cafes, art galleries and other familiar tourist sites.  Of course, 'people watching' was listed as being very much a part of Parisian culture.

What are your thoughts?  Is this book blatant sexism, or is this adding a different dimension to how cities should be viewed? 

...just when we thought French President Nicholas Sarkozy didn't have enough on his plate already.

Aleem Kanji