Archive for May, 2008

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sat May 31st 2008 at 3:52pm UTC

Mayors of the World, Unite!

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

My latest Globe and Mail column is out.

This week, the mayor of Canada’s biggest city did something
remarkable: He basically declared war on firearms. In response to
several highly publicized shootings, David Miller announced that he
wants Toronto’s City Council to crack down on gun clubs, firing ranges
and businesses that manufacture, assemble and distribute weapons.

“Do we as a society value safety, or do we value a hobby that creates
danger?” he asked. “That hobby directly results in people being shot
and killed on the streets of our city.”

Not surprisingly, Mr. Miller’s bold move has generated a great deal of
controversy. At the same time, it reflects a growing trend in the
world’s major cities.

Just as he is taking the lead in trying to control guns, figures such
as Michael Bloomberg in New York City, Richard Daley in Chicago, Job
Cohen in Amsterdam and Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London,
have explored new approaches to everything from education, crime and
smoking bans to environment and climate change – even bringing modern
management techniques to government. While there remains more work to
do, their efforts and those of their peers have made their
jurisdictions safer, smarter, greener, more aesthetic, more efficient,
wealthier and more globally competitive.

state and national leaders.

Overall, these mayors, as well as premiers and governors, are proving
themselves to be much more in tune with global trends than are heads of

In today’s world, cities, regions and mega-regions composed of two or
more cities and their suburbs have become key competitive players
alongside global companies and nation states. Canada and the U.S., for
example, are not competing against China and India. Rather, specific
regions in North America are competing with dynamic regions such as
Bangalore and Shanghai.

Two new books –
The Post-American World
by Fareed Zakaria and
The Second World
by Parag Khanna – argue that the new global economy power will be more dispersed and multipolar.

Mr. Zakaria believes we are experiencing modern history’s third great
power shift, after the rise of the West from the 15th century on, and
the rise of the U.S. in the 19th century. But he argues that this
latest transition is not so much about the decline of America as it is
about “the rise of the rest,” and by that he means much more than
simply China or India. The end result will be a “landscape that is
quite different from the one we have lived in until now – one defined
and directed from many places and by many peoples.” Mr. Khanna
similarly predicts that we are headed toward a “global,
multi-civilizational, multipolar” world with three superpowers: the
U.S., China and the European Union.

Each of the Big Three powers will assert its influence differently, but
the intense demand for energy and resources means that the underlying
goal will be the same. And the main battlefield for this geopolitical
competition, Mr. Khanna argues, is the “second world” – about 40
strategically important “transition” states whose relationships with
the superpowers have the capacity to tip the balance.

Like both of them, I agree that it’s a big mistake to view power in
this new world as a competition confined only to large nations. In
fact, small states will increasingly find themselves with more
influence and more room to manoeuvre. Their competitive position will
be strengthened and they will have the opportunity to act as important
stabilizers in the global system.

They are already doing very well, economically speaking.

According to my Global Creativity Index, Sweden (first), Finland
(third), Switzerland (fifth), Denmark (sixth), Iceland (seventh),
Canada (11th) and Australia (12th) are right up there with the U.S.
(fourth) and Japan (second). Interestingly, Russia, China and India sit
well down the list: 25th, 36th and 41st, respectively.

Canada and Australia are seen as models for open immigration and talent
attraction, Ireland as a prototype for economic revitalization. Denmark
and Sweden show how markets and welfare states can work together and
why high taxes do not necessarily mean low competitiveness.

In my view, these small states, among several others, are the best
places to look for innovative, alternative models of economic
prosperity and social cohesion.

A big reason for the improved competitive stature of smaller nations
stems from the shifting nature of global competition. Today,
competitiveness no longer turns on market size, raw material, control
over natural resources or even business costs, but rather on which
places can best attract and retain innovative and entrepreneurial

Ultimately, it is less in nations and more around these regional
locations that talent wants to be and where it clusters. Global talent
is not migrating to England but to London; entrepreneurs and technical
talent are not going to China and India, but to Beijing, Shanghai and

In this regard, even the most thoughtful commentators remain overly
enthralled with the power of the nation state and miss the rising
importance of the city region.

In fact, the best way to understand the past century of U.S. global
hegemony is through this lens. It’s not the size of America’s market or
its natural resources or its military supremacy that defined its
ascendance and dominance. Rather, it is America’s role as an attractor
of (and haven for) the world’s top talent.

That history includes many great entrepreneurs, from Andrew Carnegie
(born in Scotland) in steel to Andy Grove (Hungary) in semi-conductors,
as well as the influx of scientists (Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi) and
artists (Marc Chagall, Igor Stravinsky, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) who
fled Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. In Silicon Valley, a third to a
half of all start-ups have someone born overseas on their founding team.

Yet our system for making global policy shows little sign of
adjusting to this shift, because it remains overwhelmingly organized
around heads of states, foreign affairs ministers and central bankers.
Mr. Zakaria worries that even as U.S. companies pioneer globalization,
and while America remains “the most open, flexible society in the
world,” its government is impeding the country’s ability to adapt.
Regions such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago are
well positioned to compete for global talent, but restrictive U.S.
government policies on immigration and homeland security make it harder
for them to do so.

U.S. presidential candidate John McCain says a new “League of
Democracies” – composed of about 40 advanced democratic nations – is
needed to inform global policy-making and bring stability to the world
system. While national leaders have shown themselves to be increasingly
ineffective and out of touch, it is mayors, premiers and governors who
have consistently demonstrated their ability to navigate today’s
wrenching economic and social shifts.

For my money, a League of Cities and Regions – made up of the world’s
largest cities, regions, states and provinces – is more in tune with
what the emerging “post-American” world really needs.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Fri May 30th 2008 at 8:34am UTC

Model Suburb?

Friday, May 30th, 2008

As they swell, the suburbs are changing. Perhaps none ever quite resembled the
colourless domestic enclaves popularised by 1970s television programmes such as
“The Brady Bunch”; now, they look nothing at all like them. America’s suburbs
are ethnically and demographically mixed—sometimes more so than its cities. Many
are less dormitories than economic powerhouses.

This is from an interesting, if somehow conflicted, Economist article on America’s suburbs.  As I point out in WYC, there is no one suburban model.  Close-in suburbs on  transit links in and around “super-star cities” are likely to fare very, very well. Far-off exurbs, not so much. Suburbs come in many styles and “flavors.”  There are strollervilles, boho-burgs, family lands, new urbias, exurbs – the list goes on and on. Beyond this, there are real economic drivers that are transforming suburbia. One is of course rising fuel costs.  There are more options out there for “living” and tastes and preferences are changing and becoming more differentiated by group and across life-stage. One size no longer fits just about everyone.  And as I’ve stated here before, in  the idea-driven creative economy, time or “opportunity” costs increasingly matter to location choice.  A very interesting ongoing transformation indeed – one which is far from over.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Fri May 30th 2008 at 8:24am UTC

Super Star Cities

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Ten Most Expensive Cities (Office Space)

1. London (West End), England
2. Moscow, Russia
3. Tokyo (Inner Central), Japan
4. Mumbai, India
5. Tokyo (Outer Central), Japan
6. London (City), England
7. New Delhi, India
8. Paris, France
9. Singapore
10. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The global market for office space remains very spiky.  The cost per square foot in London’s West End was a whopping $229.54 per square foot. NYC’s midtown market, ranked 13th, cost less than half that, $103.43 per square foot. Toronto’s central business district, ranked 47th, was a veritable bargain at $62.44; and suburban Los Angeles was 48th at $62.06.

Source: CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc. (CBRE) Research’s semi-annual Global Market Rents survey.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu May 29th 2008 at 6:57am UTC

Cities and Ambition

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around
one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more;
you should try harder … A city speaks to you mostly by accident—in things you see through windows, in conversations you overhear. It’s not something you have to seek out, but
something you can’t turn off.

This and much, much more in this fascinating new essay by Paul Graham (h/t: Ben Casnocha).

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Tue May 27th 2008 at 9:05am UTC

Death and Life of Public Intellectuals

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Dan Drezner believes that public intellectuals are back and that the blogosphere helps the cause. You can download his fascinating paper on the subject here. In another post he mentions hs recent appearance on Steve Paiken’s The Agenda (which he calls Canada’s equivalent of Charlie Rose). Actually Steve’s terrific show is but one of several Canadian broadcast venues for public intellectuals and informed and reasoned discourse.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Mon May 26th 2008 at 6:22am UTC

Geography of Gas Prices

Monday, May 26th, 2008


(Via Andrew Sullivan, original here).

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sun May 25th 2008 at 12:10pm UTC

Toronto (Science) Rising

Sunday, May 25th, 2008


“In terms of what I am doing, I would pretty much say hands down that Toronto is the best place in the world.”  That’s a quote from UoT chemical geneticist, Guri Giaever, in a feature story on Toronto’s rising scientific prowess in Nature. Click here to download. Add to that what is happening in physics at Waterloo and the mega-region is emerging as serious global scientific centers. I’d say the same thing about what we’re doing at the Prosperity Institute and across the university in my field.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sun May 25th 2008 at 10:17am UTC

Mega Ball

Sunday, May 25th, 2008


Mike Tanier over at Football Outsiders sees the power of the mega-region:

Buffalo has long been one of those in-between cities: small by international
standards, but large enough to host the Bills and the NHL Sabres. Now, Buffalo
is close to losing some of its big-league luster. The Bills will play three
preseason and five regular season games in Toronto, starting this year and
ending in 2012. The so-called Toronto Series is a likely precursor to a
permanent move to Canada. …

This region spans two nations: the Buffalo-Rochester area in western New York,
and the Toronto metro area in southern Canada. Toronto is the financial capital
of Canada, and if you yoke its economy onto Buffalo-Rochester’s, you get a
powerhouse mega-region.

Richard Florida, economist and author of Who’s Your City?, explains
the mega-region concept. “Mega-regions are the driving forces of the world
economy. A mega-region is an area that hosts business and economic activity on a
large scale, generating a lion’s share of the world’s economic activity and an
even larger share of the world’s innovation and technological discoveries.”
Toronto-Buffalo-Rochester (TBR) is one of just 40 significant mega-regions in
the world. According to Florida, it’s responsible for $530 billion in economic
output. It also ranks highly among world mega-regions in worldwide innovation
patents and what Florida calls “star scientists,” two indicators that TBR is
positioned to compete against other regions as a high-tech research and
industrial center.

Strapping U.S. and Canadian cities together seems a little disingenuous at
first, but Florida explains that it’s vital to everyone’s financial interests to
think outside the borders of states and nations. “Much of our public policy
ignores the rise of mega-regions and, sometimes, works against them. If we want
to bolster economic competitiveness, policy leaders across country borders and
state lines must pursue policies that take mega-regions into account.”

Buffalo and Toronto are just a few hours apart; Maple Leafs fans often travel
to Buffalo when their teams play the Sabres, and Buffalo baseball fans often
take day trips to watch the Blue Jays. By moving across the
border and closer to the center of the TBR mega-region, the Bills can acquire a
much-needed influx of corporate-caliber cash. “The Bills are like your parents
who bought their house 50 years ago,” Robinson explained. “Their mortgage is
paid off, so they don’t need a lot of income to get by.” The Wilson family can
turn a tidy profit on television revenues, but the next owners will cough up as
much as $800 million. They’ll need luxury box revenue and other income sources
to offset their initial debts. “We don’t have a deep stable of companies,”
Robinson said. “The Bills couldn’t dream of selling a PSL.” Ideally, Toronto
would provide the companies, with Buffalo providing the loyal fan base.

It’s one thing to embrace macroeconomics, but quite another to root for a
team that sings a different national anthem before games. While Bills fans are
among the most loyal in the NFL, Robinson is not sure how many
would follow the team to Canada, not when the Steelers, Browns, Jets, Giants,
and Patriots offer attractive regional rooting interests. “Over time, it would
settle into the relationship locals have with the Blue Jays,” Robinson said.
“The Bills would be a nearby team to go to.”

However, the Toronto Series, with its multi-venue format, could help fans
acclimate to the idea of a regional team. The Toronto Series allows the Rogers
group to use the novelty and rarity of NFL football to charge super-premium
prices to Toronto fans. At the same time, the Wilson family gets a $78 million
payday from the Rogers group, and can also charge slightly more for games at
Rich Stadium because of decreased supply. Over a period of a few seasons, the
Wilsons and the Rogers conglomerate could tweak the 7-to-1 Buffalo-Toronto game
arrangement. The Bills could end up playing four games in each venue, just as
the Packers split time between Green Bay and Milwaukee in the 1970s and 80s.

Some fans may abandon the Bills if they become Canadians or vagabonds, but
Florida sees a big difference between a move within the TBR region and a move
to, say, Los Angeles. “Economic development, more than ever before, is about
talent attraction and retention. Creative types are concentrating in communities
that are open, diverse, and thick with an array of amenities. Major league
sports help to create an authentic community, one that is appealing and engaging
for people of all walks of life.” The designation “major league city” still
means something in the world of high finance. Toronto will use pro football to enhance its
international profile; the official Toronto Series website
( touts the city as “international, sophisticated,
ethnically diverse, fascinating and passionate about sports.” That designation
could apply to the whole TBR region, which could in turn use the Bills as a
drawing card. “Authenticity is important to creative workers,” Florida said.
“Professional sports teams, similar to a region’s arts community and its unique
neighborhoods, help make a region unique.”

The Bills are one of the few things lending “authenticity” to Buffalo;
without them (and the Sabres), Buffalo has little to offer that can’t be found
in Elmira or Erie, Pennsylvania. “The Bills are our last lingering vestige of
being a major league city,” Robinson said. “People take a lot of pride in them.”
Re-imagine Buffalo as a small part of a thriving mega-region, and the fans of
western New York can keep their allegiance to the Bills.

Even with a border in the way, the mega-region remains a big, growing  “commutable” market.  In Bos-Wash, Philly and DC are becoming the new suburbs so to speak, for those who can’t afford or can’t deal with the hustle and bustle of NYC but want a more “urban” alternative.  Buffalo can benefit from Toronto’s market size and unrelenting growth. Already, Canadians are the no. 1 immigrant group in Buffalo. Who knows?  Eventually, as housing prices continue to rise in Toronto, Buffalo may well be able to capitalize on its huge housing cost advantage, combined with its lakefront, authentic neighborhoods, universities, healthcare system, and arts and cultural assets to begin to attract talent from the mega, and perhaps, the world.

And I’ll sure be lining up for my Tor-Buf-Chester Bill’s tickets.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sat May 24th 2008 at 9:45am UTC

The National

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

The video is here.

The segment is very well done. What I really like about it is that
it takes you inside the Prosperity Institute, shows our newly renovated
new space at MaRs (our incredible team got it ready that morning), and
includes cameos by our research and administrative teams.

Aleem Kanji
by Aleem Kanji
Sat May 24th 2008 at 9:33am UTC

Paris, The Way it Was Meant to be Seen?

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

A highly controversial new book out by a speech writer for a high ranking Minister, across the pond in France is making all the rage.

What’s the fuss you ask? – well, get a load of the title:  The book is called Guide des jolies femmes de Paris (Guide to the Pretty Women of Paris).  A bit of a self-help book to exploring the best Parisian “feminine specialties.”  The book goes on to list the best spots in Paris for various parts of the female anatomy and other locations for typical hangouts, distinguished by female age-demographic in Paris.


I have been to Paris, but mainly relied on my Lonely Planet book to help me navigate through the streets to find the best cafes, art galleries and other familiar tourist sites.  Of course, ‘people watching’ was listed as being very much a part of Parisian culture.

What are your thoughts?  Is this book blatant sexism, or is this adding a different dimension to how cities should be viewed?

…just when we thought French President Nicholas Sarkozy didn’t have enough on his plate already.

Aleem Kanji