Thursday, June 15, 2006 06/15/06-Gay Index and High Tech

In today's encore excerpt, Richard Florida speaks to the ingredients that make a city or region thrive economically:

"...I try to identify the factors that make some cities and regions grow and prosper, while others lag behind. One of the oldest pieces of conventional wisdom in this field says the key to economic growth is attracting and retaining companies--the bigger the company, the better...But it quickly became clear that this wasn't working.

"I saw this firsthand in the mid-1990s with Lycos, a Carnegie Mellon spin-off company. The Lycos technology, which you have probably used to search the internet, was developed in Pittsburgh. But the company eventually moved its operations to Boston to gain access to a deep pool of skilled managers, technologists and business people. These departures were happening repeatedly, in Pittsburgh and elsewhere. All too often the technologies, the companies and even the venture capital dollars flowed out of town to places that had a bigger and better stock of talented and creative people...

"Then came the real stunner. In 1998 I met Gary Gates, then a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon. While I had been studying the location decisions of high-tech industries and talented people, Gates had been exploring the location patterns of gay people...When we compared the two lists with...statistical rigor, his Gay index turned out to correlate very strongly with my measures of high- tech growth. Other measures I came up with, like the Bohemian index--a measure of the density of artists, writers and performers in a region--produced similar results. My conclusion was that...economic growth was occurring in places that were tolerant, diverse and open to creativity--because these were places where creative people of all types wanted to live. While some in academe were taken aback by my findings, I was amazed by how quickly city...leaders began to use my measures and indicators to shape their development strategies."

Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class, Basic Books, 2002, pp. xxvii-xxviii


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