Who's Your City?, by Richard Florida
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Archive for June, 2009

Orlando works for me

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Staffers from the Orlando economic development commission caught me leaving a meeting and asked to film me. They asked the question, “Why does Orlando work for you” and wanted me to share why I choose to live in Orlando. They posted the video on YouTube, along with other interviews.

Sent by Bob from Orlando, Florida

Orlando Works for Me

Unemployed & Uncertain

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I am a frustrated 27 year old white male. Why? I am a single Certified Public Accountant who cannot find work within an hour of where I live one would expect for CPA.

First career. I live in a small town in central Illinois, near 5 small metros. I passed the CPA Exam last November. I have been overqualified for each position I have had since May 2004. I lasted 5 months in that position. It was a state government position & lost it because the management felt I was too introverted to represent the agency. On May 6, I lost my job. It was scheduled to be a two-month temporary position reconciling invoice payment postings to bank deposits, but lasted 11 months. The company had decided to make it a full-time position. I believe the reason they did not hire me full-time was due to the fact that when I was first asked about my career goals I spoke of long term goals, such as starting my own accounting firm or some other way to make my career path more like a typical CPA. This position did not request a college degree, paid /hour, & reached the point of being so easy it’s boring months ago. I found out I lost my job by phone call on commute home from work. I now find myself unemployed & looking for a new position. I am on the verge of giving of hope of having a typical CPA career path in central Illinois. I have used Google & contacted the AICPA trying to find where CPAs are most in demand without a satisfactory answer.

Second personal. I feel rooted. I do not want to leave the area, but also feel career interests may force me out. I prefer smaller cities, such as the 5 metros in central Illinois. Since leaving college, I have lived in two other cities, each time failing to become part of an urban tribe. The failure to join an urban tribe twice, combined with success joining not-so-urban tribes in my hometown may be the primary force behind why I feel rooted. Childhood friends are the linchpin of my associations in my not-so-urban tribes. Also, I am unwillingly single. The singles map gives me a hesitation about moving to Peoria & Champaign, Illinois, I didn’t previously have, though still optimistic about Springfield, Illinois. It does make me optimistic about St. Louis except the job postings appear no scant in St. Louis. A move to St. Louis would be 130 miles from home, enough to leave me seeing far less of my not-so-urban tribe & my mother. I have been to Chicago several times & do not like it. Chicago has a certain blandness to me, crowded, and awful traffic & congestion.

Right now, most of my thoughts of leaving central Illinois focus on St. Louis for its proximity to central Illinois, cost of living, & mating market and Washington, DC for its low unemployment rates, much higher level of job postings for accountants, & mating market, even though I don’t know if I can tolerate a city with such terrible traffic & congestion. I am still interested in finding alternatives.

Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.

Sent by Ken from Lincoln, Illinois

Greenest city on the water you’ll find!

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Ever since I moved here, I find that Hamburg is one of the greenest cities in the world. Everywhere you look there is trees all over the place. Combined with the fact that the city has the second largest port in Europe, it compromises one fact for its high quality of life. Hamburg is a very open city and you can just be whoever you want to be, maybe because of its harbour. 120000 companies have at least an office in the city if not more, there is also a big aircraft industry in the city with Airbus in the lead. Another big branch would be the media industry. With 8 big German advertising agencies, it is the number one place in Germany for this industry. There is also growing IT and pharmaceutical industry. Another incredible project which resembles its optimism on growth in all directions is the founding of the first European University that specialized on the built enviroment and metroppolitan development, the HafenCity University. You can feel the energy and ambition in the people. I love living here and I can only suggest for people to come visit and check out Hamburg – The City on the water!

Sent by Ralf from Hamburg

Fredericton!

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

080701iAs an immigrant from the US who chose Fredericton, I was both surprised and pleased to see its ranking, especially as regards gay and lesbian families. We visited Winnipeg, Kelowna, Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax, and Fredericton and we *chose* Fredericton. Over the course of the past year, many locals, hearing this, have said, with a hint of disbelief, “Why Fredericton?” When we describe what was appealing – the size, the recreational opportunities, two universities, the seat of government, cost of living, etc., they invariably respond with something like, “Oh, yeah…” as if once reminded it was a no-brainer. That being said, there have been some ENORMOUS challenges re New Brunswick. This is a province with low self-esteem, if that makes sense. it’s virtually impossible to get a family doctor and Irving owns the province (e.g., media, oil, lumber…). But, Fredericton, as a city, is wonderful. The only thing we really miss – having come from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/Saint Paul – is the diverse array of wonderful restaurants!

Sent by Melissa from Fredericton

Salt Lake City?

Monday, June 1st, 2009

My husband and I are considering a move to Salt Lake City (versus Laramie, Wyoming) for professional school. I see no comments on Salt Lake. Any thoughts? (We would definitely move on from Laramie to any number of places we like – our opportunities in Laramie provide entry to Seattle and Denver – but if we go to Salt Lake, circumstances mean it would be more beneficial to stay put a number of years.)

Sent by Ellen, from (maybe) Salt Lake City

The Creative Economy: Case Central Russia

Monday, June 1st, 2009

The data to be presented are obtained from a study within two neighbouring big cities of Central Russia: Ivanovo (its population is about 413,000) and Yaroslavl (approximately 604,000 inhabitants). Our respondents were kindly requested to write a few sentences concerning their attitudes and stereotypes as well as their value orientations and life strategies.

While our study is still in progress, the report includes only some preliminary results from samples of 560 and 728 respondents living in Ivanovo and in Yaroslavl, respectively. With their age between 17 and 73, the sample represents all main social and professional groups of contemporary Russian society. As a result of content analysis of the reported answers, the data has been organized in accordance with their frequency distribution.

Collectivism, common sense, authority, power seem to be significant for the majority of the respondents from Ivanovo. Their life strategies are connected with rigid stereotypes about their gender roles, social statuses, or age, among other things. To solve their problems, people from Ivanovo, including the business persons (82 respondents), are not sympathetic to innovations, but would rather increase their profits in a laissez-faire manner. Unlike the general sample from Ivanovo, the students who live and study in this city (136 respondents) demonstrate much more tolerance and creativity. But the majority of these students (67 percent) expressed that after their graduation they would like to leave Ivanovo for other cities, especially for Moscow.

While analyzing the data obtained from Yaroslavl sample, the data showed that individual achievement, personal autonomy, knowledge and competence seem to be significant for our respondents. Not only the business persons (95 respondents), but the majority in the Yaroslavl sample tend to welcome new ideas, innovation, and creativity. As for the students living and studying in Yaroslavl, the majority of them (64 percent) do not want to move from this city after their graduation, like the young people from other relatively “prosperous” cities of Russia, including Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

To understand the differences between both samples, we have analyzed some local traditions both in Ivanovo and in Yaroslavl.

Having been known since the 16th century as a centre of the Russian weave handicraft, Ivanovo has been institutionalized as a city in 1871 with the Act of the Emperor Alexander II. But Ivanovo-Voznyesensk (as this city was named until 1932) continued to develop as a closed system, preserving the lifestyle of the Russian rural community obshchina. The differences in this regard could be influenced also by geographical factors. Despite of its proximity to Moscow, Ivanovo is situated away from big rivers and the main railroads. Moreover, the city expanded only due to the growth of the textile industry. Because of this mono-structural economy its social structure was homogenous including mainly former impoverished peasants. In a closed mono-professional and mono-cultural community with rigid traditional instruments of social influence and social control, a high degree of conformity has been required. Tradition tends to affect the emergence of the mental space in its rigid manner. As a result, the closeness of the mental space motivated people to be more authoritarian.

During the Soviet era the Communist authorities were trying to turn Ivanovo into a model of a “city of future”. Today the results seem to be the opposite. On the one hand, Ivanovo has become one of the biggest university centres in Russia. Now there are nine universities and other institutions of higher education in the city, but on the other hand, the structure of the local economy is still based mainly on the textile industry and has not been considerably changed. The extensive development of this industry required many low-skilled workers from the countryside who were forced to move in the city because of the collectivization of their lands. A large and sudden invasion of new people inevitably awakens a strong sense of community (Freudenburg 1984: 697-705), and this is probably what happened here. But the elements of local traditions were mixed with official ideological patterns (it would be possible to define this phenomenon as “quasi-traditionalism”). As a result, the new and old inhabitants of Ivanovo started to experience a kind of identity crisis. This crisis became much more obvious in the post-Soviet era, because of the crisis in the local mono-structural economy, which consequently led to high unemployment rates and deteriorating social conditions. In spite of the improvement of the situation in the mid-2000s, resulted from the rising oil prices and the influx of investments from Moscow (along with many traits of the lifestyle of the capital city), mainly low-wage service jobs have been created. The current global crisis seems to threaten considerably this model of the development of the city.

These circumstances seem to be important for estimating the quality of life in Ivanovo. Within the academic community of the city new ideas and technologies are successfully elaborated. They could help the local economy to be restructured in a way of introducing new high-tech industries. But the dominant tradition is still defined by the closeness of mental space. As a result, quasi-traditional ideas, attitudes, and values, while mixed with the main elements of the consumerist culture, are encouraging people to act in the authoritarian spirit and to oppose any serious innovation. For instance, despite of increasing traffic difficulties, people prefer to drive their automobiles everywhere. The automobiles themselves are regarded not as vehicles, but rather as symbols of wealth and prestige. Consequently, pedestrians or bike riders are often treated as being of low social status. As a result, the pedestrian zones or biking tracks are not developed. Although it is not the main reason that motivates potentially mobile, much sought-after talents (including the students involved in our study) to move to other cities and regions of Russia, it may be considered as one of the obstacles in improving the quality of life.

As for Yaroslavl, it is considered as one of the oldest Russian cities, and, perhaps, as one of the oldest centres of the Slavonic cultures (like Prague, Cracow, Kyiv, or Veliky Novgorod). Yaroslavl is still situated at the crossroad of the traditional pathways of Russian merchants. Therefore, throughout its history this city tended to develop an open system of mentality. Its traditions have been flexible to different lifestyles of various social and professional groups and tended to affect the emergence of the conventional mental space. This has been encouraging the city dwellers to be more tolerant and open to change. In the national sense many innovative practices and novelties have been introduced in Yaroslavl, such as the first Russian professional theatre established in 1750 by Fyodor Volkov. The development of the city was seriously accelerated by the reforms of the 1860s. These reforms gave way to the appearance of the middle class in Russia, and Yaroslavl has become one of the centres of this process. As a result, it developed all the elements which make a small town comfortable and those that make a large city cosmopolitan.

During the Soviet era the Communists tended to consider Yaroslavl as an ‘unreliable city’ due to the anti-Bolshevik rebellion which occurred in July 1918. However, once it was included in the Communist social experiment, Yaroslavl was not considered as a model of the “city of future”. The result of this is that not only cultural (architectural) heritage of the city, but also traditional tolerance and openness are quite distinctive. Combined with a diversified structure of local economy, this situation favours providing ideas, know-how, creativity, and imagination so important in estimating the quality of life. For instance, unlike in Ivanovo, a vast pedestrian zone has been created in the centre of Yaroslavl. It can be considered as an alternative space so crucial in preventing traffic difficulties and air pollution.

The numerous economic and social problems of Yaroslavl (such as the gap between affluence and poverty, high crime rate, terrible air pollution, etc.) are existing, but in comparison to the majority of communities in Russia, Yaroslavl, like Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Yekaterinburg, and some other cities, is today perceived as one of the most probable places in Russia to provide a good quality of life .

Sent by Mark from Ivanovo, Russia