This Friday night, UTA is hosting a chat by urban economic theorist Richard Florida. If listening to ideas about regional economies and urban redevelopment sounds like a snoozer of a way to spend a weekend night, well, you don’t know Dick … Florida, that is.
He’s been hotly defended and disputed ever since his 2003 tome ”The Rise of the Creative Class” became an international bestseller. In that book, Florida posited that the economy of any U.S. region will rise or fall based on the success of what he calls “the creative class,” a somewhat broad label that includes almost any professional who creates intellectual content: Medical researchers, software engineers, web designers, advertising and marketing folks, journalists (yay!), and even musicians, filmmakers, and stage artists. The cities that will continue to flourish — cyclical recessions notwithstanding — value what he calls “The Three T’s”: “Talent, Technology, and Tolerance.” His fave examples include the usual targets of right-wing ire: Austin, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Denver, and other notorious enclaves for sushi-eating, latte-sipping, “NYT”-reading secularists.
Another source of conservative complaint: Florida uses an (oft-misinterpreted) “Gay Index” to assert that cities that attract large numbers of gay and lesbian professionals tend to thrive economically. To some that’s a bad thing, cuz, well, you can’t afford to give The Gayz too much credit, or they’ll overtake the neighborhood with their agenda-driven Gayby Boom and whatnot.
I won’t pretend to interpret the piles of research he’s amassed to support his theories. Richard Florida can explain himself at UTA when he discusses the North Texas economy in general and local issues like gas drilling and the rise of Cowboys Stadium and Dallas’ AT&T Performing Arts Center. (He doesn’t believe big splashy entertainment centers are economic saviors). Should be interesting.