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December 15, 2006

Richard Florida

Live from Savannah

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RfA nice report here, complete with pictures, from my talk last night in Savannah, where you can feel the energy of a community in the throes of creative transformation.

America's cities, its workers and its economy are experiencing an unprecedented shift in how people earn a living. That transition already is beginning to reshape every aspect of how people live - from how they dress to where they live and when they work - but it also can foment fear, bestselling author and social theorist Richard Florida told a Savannah audience ...Thursday night.

Cities that want to thrive will have to foster open doors and open communication, not because it's the politically correct thing to do, Florida said, but because it makes economic common sense. ...  Every community has the potential to nurture its creative class and every person - regardless of age, race or income - has the ability to be creative, he said. What keeps some cities from letting the creative synergy blossom, he said, are "the squelchers,'' who cave in to negativity or who refuse to innovate.

The city has a broad-based energy across its leadership and among its citizens, Florida said, that has shown other communities how to restore historic downtown areas, build college enrollment and spur inter-governmental agreements that foster new programs such as The Creative Coast Initiative... ...

Felix Figuereo, ...general manager of Color Maria, a Web development firm, ...considers himself part of the creative class."I think there is a very strong union between government, education and business that overwhelmingly attracted me to the area,'' said Figuereo, who moved here from New York. ..."Savannah is creating a homegrown creative class.''

Chris Miller, executive director of the Creative Coast Initiative, said Florida's first book, "The Rise of the Creative Class,'' helped give Savannah its initial push toward its creative development. ... "We've got a lot of pieces of the puzzle, and we're a whole lot further along at snapping them together than most people.''

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Chris Miller

Great speech Richard! You certainly got the juices going here in town. Standing ovation from a large, diverse, sold-out crowd..... Not bad at all!

So many of your comments touch on the migration of smart young folks, that even though I see this type of thing in Savannah all the time, it was doubly ironic when I sat down for coffee on Chippewa Square on a glorious day, comfortably ensconced with the NYTimes.

As I was sitting there, an attractive young lady politely requests the use a chair at my table. She is joined by three others in their mid to late 20's. Conversation turns up that they all recently relocated to Savannah in the last three months. One was from LA, two from Seattle, one from Portland. One was a photojournalist working for the local daily paper, two worked at Gulfstream (headquartered in Savannah) and the other was a free lance graphic designer. Talk about flight of the creative class!

As all newcomers (and even old timers), they were giddy to be part of Savannah's cool, quirky energy and still exploring their new surroundings. They were doing a good job since they had already found a hip little coffee shop tucked into the historic district.

Its encouraging to see the influx of bright young talent to the area. People that "get" Savannah and are living the concepts you spoke about. They are the real proof-in-the-pudding.

Even as many (if not most) other cities shed creative, young professionals, Savannah is not only bucking the national trends by not losing there folks, we are a rare place that is growing the 25-34 age demographic at a rate exceeding the overall population growth of the area!

Ironically enough, they are coming from other major metro areas that attracted young folks in the 90's but are now losing them to smaller, more soulful places where they can more easily engage in the community and express their creativity in a cultured but quirky place that embraces them.

Funny how this all works. I guess it was bound to happen. Fortunately, we aren't on the popular radar screens like Austin and Boulder are. This ensures we get only the most curious, adventurous and interesting characters who made the effort to look a little beyond the usual places and found something that they were missing in the places they came from.

Beaches, beauty and brains! What's not to like :-)

-Chris

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