Quality of place and
the new economy
Open space preservation, access to nature, and other quality-of-place amenities may be keys to Northeast Ohios future economic development. In essence, that is the argument of the following article by Richard Florida, a professor of regional economic development at Carnegie Mellon Universitys Heinz School of Public Policy and Management. The article is taken from a summary of a report that Florida prepared in January 2000 for the R. K. Mellon Foundation, Heinz Endowments, and Sustainable Pittsburgh.
By Richard Florida
The rise of the new economy has radically altered the ways that cities and regions establish and maintain their competitive advantage. In the new economy, regions develop advantages based on their ability to quickly mobilize the best people, resources, and capabilities required to turn innovations into new business ideas and commercial products. The nexus of competitive advantage has thus shifted to those regions that can generate, retain, and attract the best talent.
The availability of job and career opportunities is a necessary but insufficient condition to attract the young knowledge workers. Knowledge workers favor cities and regions with a thick labor market which offers the wide variety of employment opportunities required to sustain a career in high technology fields. Quality-of-place completes the picture.
Leading high technology regions also rate very highly in terms of quality-of-place with high levels of amenities and environmental quality. Austin, Texas; Seattle, Washington; the San Francisco Bay area; the greater Boston region; and Washington, D.C. score consistently high across virtually every quality-of-place measurenatural amenities, lifestyle amenities, and overall environmental quality. There is a strikingly strong correlation across the board between regions that are home to large concentrations of knowledge workers, amenities, and the environment. In this regard, amenities and the environment are part of a total package of factors required to become a successful technology-based region with a large pool of knowledge workers.
Leading high technology regions have aggressively pursued strategies to bolster their environmental quality, natural amenities, and lifestyle offerings to attract and retain talent. Austin and Seattle have placed high priority on recreational amenities such as bike paths, mountain bike trails, parks and recreational areas, and accessibility to water for rowing and sailing. These regions have cultivated thriving music scenes and are also known for their youth-oriented cultures that are open and supportive of diversity. Both regions are among the national leaders in smart growth and sustainable development. Leading high technology regions have also supported the development of extensive lifestyle and recreational amenities around major university districts where knowledge workers reside.
Knowledge workers prefer places with a diverse range of outdoor recreational activities (e.g., rowing, sailing, cycling, rock climbing) and associated lifestyle amenities. Access to water and water-based recreation is of particular importance to these workers. Knowledge workers prefer regions where amenities and activities are easy to get to and available on a "just-in-time" basis. Due to the long hours, fast-pace, and tight deadlines associated with work in high technology industries, knowledge workers require amenities that blend seamlessly with work and can be accessed on demand. They favor cities and regions that offer a wide range of experiences, and are somewhat less concerned with "big ticket" amenities such as "high" arts and culture or professional sports. Knowledge workers also express a strong preference for progressive regions that are youth-oriented and supportive of demographic diversity.
The findings of this report suggest that cities and regions have a great deal to gain from developing a quality-of-place strategy designed to attract knowledge workers and from embedding it in ongoing economic development and competitiveness efforts. In doing so, the report indicates that the region should consider the following actions:
Quality-of-place is the missing piece of the puzzle. To compete successfully in the age of talent, regions must make quality-of-place a central element of their economic development efforts.