Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Has Richard Florida jumped the shark?

Reactions to this article in the American Prospect generated a lot of interesting reading for me over the holiday. I participate in a planning academic listserve that has been non-stop on this for weeks. Florida has been taking hits for the academy since day one, but perception of his work in the popular press remained pretty laudatory until quite recently.

I fall in what the Prospect identifies as a common critique...

"In a standard version of this critique, Amy Liu of the Brookings Institution -- with which Florida was once affiliated -- praises him for debunking 'smoke-stack chasing' as economic development but says he has replaced that with another flawed 'attraction' strategy."

Do jobs follow people or the reverse as traditional perceptions would hold? Of course the answer isn't so simple but nuance doesn't sell books.

The Prospect story also draws a parallel I've long been thinking about exploring further....

"There is a long tradition of charismatic economic--development troubadours. In the 1990s, it was Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor who swept into inner cities with his theories of industry clusters."

Porter was coming on strong as I entered this field and arc by which these theories disseminate into practice says something about economic development. When I figure out what I'll let you know.


  1. I think in part what the rapid adoption of trends in economic development implies is that we need more economic development education! It would be wonderful if local, regional and state economic development professionals were taught not only economic development planning basics but also theoritical economic geography. My major paper examined the impacts of Michael Porter's policies in Tucson, Arizona - the results were mixed, but decidedly not like what Porter was promoting would happen post-adoption of his industry cluster policy.

  2. Good point! At a basic level even continuing ed could stand some expansion/improvement. E.g. in Virginia planning commissioners have required CE, but not IDAs who have bonding authority.