The "Creative Class" A Call to Action

Small Town Optimist Column

By Cyndy Bolton

Some of you may have heard about the "Agenda Camp" that was held a few weeks ago here in Brockville. Organized and broadcasted by TVO, The Agenda with Steve Paikin is one of their featured programs. I had intended to participate in both the St. Lawrence College and Arts Centre sessions, but like many of my peers, I had prior commitments.
I caught the last twenty minutes or so as it was presented on TVO that Monday night. A few days later, I logged on to TVO and found our local session in the archives. I watched it in its entirety and listened to what was discussed. Pertinent issues were raised, but there was no call to action. As usual, I was a bit disappointed that no one stepped up to "champion" the cause as Ronald Zajac mentioned in his Recorder article last week.

As a result of this event, you've probably heard a bit of rumbling about the "Creative Class" over the past few weeks. My interest peaked when this was mentioned in the program. I started studying and reading about this concept about 2 years ago. Like Vasiliki Bednar from the Martin Prosperity Institute mentioned, our labour force consists of 47 percent service class which are basically supportive and administrative jobs. Approximately half of the remainder is split between working class roles such as those in manufacturing, and what sociologist Richard Florida has coined as the "Creative Class" section.

To explain, according to Wikipedia, "Florida identifies the Creative Class as a key driving force for economic development of post-industrial cities in the USA." I suppose that since our economy is tied so closely to our southern friends, that this would apply to us too.

Florida describes the 'Creative Class' as 40 million workers 30 percent of the U.S. workforce, and breaks the class in two, the first being the Super Creative Core which encompasses science, engineering, education, computer programming, and research with arts, design, and media workers making a small subset. Those belonging to this group are considered to "fully engage in the creative process" (Florida, 2002, p. 69). This Core is considered innovative, creating commercial products and consumer goods. Their primary job function is to be creative and innovative. "Along with problem solving, their work may entail problem finding. "

The second section are the Creative Professionals who " are the classic knowledge-based workers and include those working in health care, business and finance, the legal sector, and education. They draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems" using higher degrees of education to do so (2002)."

"Florida concludes that the creative class is the core force of economic growth in our future economy, and is expected to add more than 10 million jobs in the next decade. " We need to incorporate these theories into our plans as we address employee retention issues and the dwindling numbers of skilled workers in our aging population. According to Linda Duxbury, a noted pioneer in the field of organizational health at Ottawa's Sprott School of Business, the shortfall will begin within the next year and we need to plan and address it NOW.

These are the types of people who, according to Florida we need to attract to help our community grow and thrive. If skilled and creative workers are in high demand everywhere due to the fact that we have not filled the need through means of immigration, they may be more attracted to larger city centers instead of our smaller communities. How do we sell this area, can we compete?

I must mention another brilliant mind, and a really easy read for those of you who have little time, but want to know more about this concept. In his book "A Whole New Mind", Daniel Pink engages the reader by presenting issues regarding the value of the right-brain thinker. Pink states that we have moved from the Industrial Age through the Age of Information, and are coming into the Conceptual Age where creativity can't be off-shored. He believes that by focusing on and tapping into right-brain (creative) thinking we can better set ourselves up for success. In fact, he states that the environment for taking advantage of this has already arrived. I guess we'd better get on it, then.

It's about time we took what would have previously been considered an abstract approach to budget cuts. Keep the grand thinkers and the creative ones too. Consider what possibilities your creative assets present before you leave most of the art department on the cutting floor to bleed out prosperity. Moving forward is about sustainability and self-sufficiency. The way we will tap into and grow our community will be directly relative to our understanding and nurturing of the local creative class. This will enable new and innovative ways to maintain and improve our lives. Whether it's about increasing tourism and attracting jobs by "thinking and looking big" as Ms. Bednar said, we need to address these issues now. I'm willing step up for this area, it's worth it. Are you?