Florida has ready answers for critic of his theories

August 08, 2004|By Mary Carole McCauley

He's here, he's there, he's everywhere.

Urban planning guru and author Richard Florida has been to nearly 300 cities worldwide touting his theory of the creative class and how it might transform cities.

"Richard isn't hemmed in by disciplines," says Oxford business professor Gordon Clark. "That allows him to see connections that people in a very narrow field of research might not see."

But some detractors complain that Florida's theories aren't new and that his proposals ignore the crucial role that families play in economic development and holds out no help for the urban poor.

Others say Florida's theories are flat-out wrong.

Steven Malanga of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, says that cities in which a large creative class resides in fact have slower job growth than municipalities that rely on cutting taxes or other traditional incentives to lure businesses. "The basic economics behind his ideas don't work," Malanga writes in The Curse of the Creative Class, an article published earlier this year in City Journal: "Cities rushing to embrace Florida's ideas have based their strategies more on wishful thinking than clear-eyed analysis."

Florida says that he hasn't been able to replicate Malanga's data, and even if those numbers were accurate, "the true measure of economic vitality isn't jobs, but prosperity."

Anyway, he says, his work is just one small facet of a larger solution. "There's nothing new in my book," he says. "All of these theories are well known. All I did was put them into a framework that made sense. I have two strengths: I have a good set of eyes on me, and I'm a good communicator.

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