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The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent


The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent Cover




Chapter One

The Flight of the Creative Class

Nothing is more revealing than movement.
-- Martha Graham (1894?1991),
dancer and choreographer

In March of 2003, I had the opportunity to meet Peter Jackson, the Academy Award?winning director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, at his film complex in lush, green, otherworldly Wellington, New Zealand. Jackson has done something unlikely in Wellington, a smallish but exciting cosmopolitan city of roughly 400,000, and one certainly not previously considered a global cultural capital. He has built a permanent facility there that is considered one of the world's most sophisticated filmmaking complexes. And he did it in New Zealand for a reason.

Jackson, a Wellington native, realized what many American cities discovered during the 1990s: that paradigm-busting creative industries could single-handedly change the way cities flourish while driving dynamic and widespread economic change. It took Jackson and his partners a while to raise the resources, but they eventually purchased an abandoned paint factory that, emblematic in its adaptive transformation and reuse, emerged as the studio responsible for the most breathtaking trilogy of films ever made. He realized, Jackson told me, that with the allure of the Lord of the Rings movies he would be able to attract a diverse array of creative talent from around the world, enticing the best cinematographers, costume designers, sound technicians, computer-graphic artists, model builders, editors, and animators to New Zealand.

Sure enough, during my visit to Wellington, I met dozens of Americans from universities such as the University of California at Berkeley and MIT working alongside talented filmmakers from Europe and Asia. Many had begun the process of establishing residency in New Zealand, ready to relinquish their American citizenship for what they saw as greener creative pastures. One of them, a digital wunderkind from the San Francisco Bay area, told me he was launching his new high-tech start-up in Wellington because of the technology infrastructure and environment there, which in his case created advantages that trumped even Silicon Valley. As we walked past a world map with pins stuck in employees' native countries, the head of digital animation joked that the organization looked more like the UN than a film production studio.

Think about this. In an industry synonymous with America's international economic and cultural might, film production, the single greatest project in recent cinematic history was internationally funded and crafted by the best filmmakers from around the world. But not in Hollywood.

When Hollywood produces movies, it creates jobs for directors, actors, and key grips in California. Because of the astounding level of technical innovation required by films of Rings' magnitude — in areas from computer graphics and animation to sound design — such a project also germinates whole new companies, and even new nationwide industries. George Lucas's Star Wars films, for instance, almost singlehandedly sparked the advancement of everything from video games to product tie-in marketing. The lion's share of economic benefits from the Rings trilogy, though, is likely to accrue not to the United States but to New Zealand. In an equally mighty display of economic irony, Jackson's remake of King Kong is also being put together in Wellington, with a budget running upward of $150 million.

Peter Jackson's accomplishment in tiny Wellington hasn't factored into any of the ongoing debates over global economic competitiveness. But the United States of America is now facing its greatest challenge since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. This challenge has little to do with business costs and even less with manufacturing prowess. And, no, the main competitive threats are not China or India. Our country — for generations known around the world as the land of opportunity and innovation — may well be on the verge of losing its creative competitive edge.

The core of this challenge is what I've come to see as the new global competition for talent, a phenomenon that promises to radically reshape the world in the coming decades. No longer will economic might amass in countries according to their natural resources, manufacturing excellence, military dominance, or even scientific and technological prowess. Today, the terms of competition revolve around a central axis: a nation's ability to mobilize, attract, and retain human creative talent. Every key dimension of international economic leadership, from manufacturing excellence to scientific and technological advancement, will depend on this ability.

This new global competition for talent creates a serious threat to the United States' long-standing economic hegemony on three overlapping fronts. First, a wide range of countries around the world are increasing their ability to compete for global talent. Second, the United States is undermining its own ability to compete for that talent. And third, the U.S. is failing to cultivate and harness the full creative capabilities of its own people in ways that position it to compete effectively.

The global talent pool and the high-end, high-margin creative industries that used to be the sole province of the U.S. and the crucial source of its prosperity have begun to disperse around the globe. A host of countries — Ireland, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Australia, and New Zealand among them — are investing in higher education, producing creative people, and churning out cutting-edge products, from cellular phones to computer software to blockbuster movies. Many of them have learned from the United States' success and are shoring up their efforts to attract foreign talent — including Americans. If even a few of these rising nations draw away, say, 2 percent each of America's creative workforce, the effect on our economy will be enormous. The United States may well have been the Goliath of the twentiethcentury global economy, but it will take just a half-dozen twenty- first-century Davids to begin to wear it down.

Product Details

The New Global Competition for Talent
Florida, Richard
by Richard Florida
Sociology - General
Emigration and immigration
Creative Ability
Knowledge Capital
Economics - General
General Business & Economics
United States Economic conditions.
Technological innovations
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9 x 6 x 1.09 in 18.4 oz

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Economics » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » Urban Studies » General

The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent Used Hardcover
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Product details 336 pages HarperBusiness - English 9780060756901 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Following up on The Rise of the Creative Class (2002), Florida argues that if America continues to make it harder for some of the world's most talented students and workers to come here, they'll go to other countries eager to tap into their creative capabilities — as will American citizens fed up with what they view as an increasingly repressive environment. He argues that the loss of even a few geniuses can have tremendous impact, adding that the 'overblown' economic threat posed by large nations such as China and India obscures all the little blows inflicted upon the U.S. by Canada, Scandinavia, New Zealand and other countries with more open political climates. Florida lays his case out well and devotes a significant portion of this polemical analysis to defending his earlier book's argument regarding 'technology, talent, and tolerance' (i.e. that together, they generate economic clout, so the U.S. should be more progressive on gay rights and government spending). He does so because that book contains what he sees as the way out of the dilemma — a new American society that can 'tap the full creative capabilities of every human being.' Even when he drills down to less panoramic vistas, however, Florida remains an astute observer of what makes economic communities tick, and he's sure to generate just as much public debate on this new twist on brain drain." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Florida knows when to unfurl an illustrative anecdote. (He begins with an account of the production of the epic Lord of the Rings films far from Hollywood, in New Zealand.) And he packages his barrage of complex statistics as irresistible rankings by city and country. Readers in Minneapolis will find plenty to crow about. Readers in Ireland will find even more. But the overall effort is somewhat uneven." (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
"Review" by , "Professor Florida makes an impassioned plea...for the U.S. to retain its stature as an open and welcoming home for talent....[H]e musters up an incredible quantity of quality statistics that would disable any contrarian...."
"Review" by , "Policy makers and independent professionals alike must quickly take Florida's argument aboard — and, just as quickly, act."
"Review" by , "Required reading for elected officials, policy makers, educators, business leaders and every citizen concerned about the future of this country."
"Synopsis" by , Research-driven and clearly written, this work by bestselling economist Richard Florida addresses the growing alarm over high-value jobs leaving the United States.
"Synopsis" by , Research-driven and clearly written, bestselling economist Richard Florida addresses the growing alarm about the exodus of high-value jobs from the USA.

Today's most valued workers are what economist Richard Florida calls the Creative Class. In his bestselling The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida identified these variously skilled individuals as the source of economic revitalisation in US cities. In that book, he shows that investment in technology and a civic culture of tolerance (most often marked by the presence of a large gay community) are the key ingredients to attracting and maintaining a local creative class.

In The Flight of the Creative Class, Florida expands his research to cover the global competition to attract the Creative Class. The USA once led the world in terms of creative capital. Since 2002, factors like the Bush administration's emphasis on smokestack industries, heightened security concerns after 9/11 and the growing cultural divide between conservatives and liberals have put the US at a large disadvantage. With numerous small countries, such as Ireland, New Zealand and Finland, now tapping into the enormous economic value of this class - and doing all in their power to attract these workers and build a robust economy driven by creative capital - how much further behind will USA fall?

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