Developing pioneering strategies for business, government, and community competitiveness, the Creative Class Group is comprised of next-generation thinkers and strategists who offer organizations and regions access to leading-edge knowledge, trends, research, consulting, education, and professional development worldwide.
The Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Global Research Professor at New York University, and the founder of the Creative Class Group, which works closely with governments and companies worldwide, Richard Florida is perhaps the world’s leading urbanist, “as close to a household name as it is possible for an urban theorist to be in America,” according to The Economist. Esquire has included him on its annual list of “The Best and the Brightest,” and Fast Company dubbed him an “intellectual rock star.” MIT Technology Review recently named him one of the world’s most influential thinkers. GDI also named him one of the world’s global thought leaders of 2013 and the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) recently named him 100 of the most followed scientists.. He is also a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Creative Economy, World Economic Forum.
Florida is the author of several global best sellers, including the award-winning The Rise of the Creative Class (“one of the best business books of all time”—800-CEO-READ), and is a senior editor for The Atlantic, where he co-founded and serves as Editor-at-Large for Atlantic Cities, the world’s leading media site devoted to cities and urban affairs. Florida appears regularly on CNN and other news broadcasts and is a regular contributor to the op ed pages of major newspapers and magazines. TIME magazine recognized his Twitter feed as one of the 140 most influential in the world.
Florida previously taught at Carnegie Mellon and George Mason University, and has been a visiting professor at Harvard and MIT. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers College and his Ph.D. from Columbia University.
As Chief Executive Officer of the Creative Class Group, Rana Florida manages new business development, marketing, consulting, research and global operations serving such diverse clients as BMW, Converse, IBM, Cirque du Soleil, Audi, Zappos, and Johnson & Johnson – to name just a few. She brings to this leadership role more than two decades of experience in corporate strategy, communications, and marketing, having directed global strategic communications for HMSHost, the world’s largest airport developer, as well as having executed marketing initiatives for such premier brands as Disney and Starbucks and events experience working with The Atlantic, The Aspen Institute and The Knight Foundation.
Well known as a writer on business and leadership – for Fast Company, Inc.com and the Huffington Post – Rana has also served as a guest business analyst on The Today Show. and MSNBC’s, The Cycle, has been a Fox News contributor for several years, and has been featured in the Business section of The New York Times and in interviews for The Wall Street Journal, Market Watch, CNN, The Globe and Mail and other major media outlets.
Her one-on-one high profile interviews have covered notables – from President Bill Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama to tennis great Andre Agassi and NBA owner (and TV star) Mark Cuban, from chefs Jeans-George Vongerichten and Mario Batali to singer Nelly Furtado and fashion designer Tory Burch, from the United Nations Director of Girl Up to world renowned architects Peter Marino and Zaha Hadid – and many more.
The thought-provoking chronicler of Creative Spaces for HGTV and the Huffington Post, highlighting public and private spaces that epitomize creativity, innovation, and design, Rana is particularly interested in the public-private intersection, and today serves as Director of the FIU-Miami Creative City Initiative, a collaboration demonstrating how creativity, culture, and design can drive a regional economy.
She is also involved in philanthropic work. A former board member for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a co-chair for the Design-Exchange, and ambassador for Girls E Mentoring, she lent her expertise to the Boards of the Airports Council International in Washington, D.C., the Council for International Visitors, the The Founders Junior Council of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Isabella Blow Foundation Committee, which supports aspiring art and fashion students. As CEO of the Creative Class Group, she worked with UN Habitat, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). She is currently an advisory board member for the online retailer Shop.ca.
Rana holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and a MBA in marketing and management.
Her book, Upgrade, Taking Your Work and Life from Ordinary to Extraordinary (McGraw Hill, 2013) was a ‘Business Best Seller’.
Steven Pedigo serves as the director of research for the Creative Class Group, a global think tank comprised of leading researchers, academics and strategists. In this role, he provides cutting-edge analysis of economic and demographic trends for communities, Fortune 500 companies and major media outlets across the globe. Steven has managed a team of expert researchers to provide business intelligence for an array of clients such as BMW, Converse, Starwood, IBM, Philips, Cirque du Soleil, Audi, Pinewood Studios, Zappos, Kraft and Johnson & Johnson, Emaar Canada and Kiplinger’s Magazine.
Steven is also responsible for managing the Creative Class Leadership Program, a worldwide community engagement program. He has successfully launched these programs in numerous U.S. and international communities from El Paso, TX; to Vancouver, BC, and Noosa, Australia.
In addition to his work with the Creative Class Group, Steven is the director of civic engagement and an assistant clinical professor for economic development at New York University (NYU). In his role at NYU, Steven is leading the effort to develop, fund and deliver the University’s civic engagement and economic development curriculum and research program.
Prior to joining NYU, Steven was a vice president and member of the senior management team for the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), a national research organization founded by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter to encourage private-sector investment into U.S. urban centers. He is also a distinguished visiting research scholar with the School of Urban and Public Affairs at University of Texas and a visiting professor at the Centro de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Design.
Steven has also served in a variety of economic development roles. He was the vice president for business attraction and research for Greater Portland, Inc. (GPI), a regional economic development organization for the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region. With GPI, Steven developed and staffed a comprehensive, assets-based economic development plan for the region’s key industry clusters.
Before GPI, Steven started his career in economic development as the director of research for the Greater Washington Initiative (GWI), a regional marketing organization for the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. He was responsible for region’s comprehensive human capital assessment, which was profiled extensively in The Washington Post and utilized by area universities and community colleges to forecast future course needs. As researcher and writer, Steven’s work has been featured in such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Dallas Morning News.
Steven holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and graduate degrees from the H. John Heinz III School for Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Reham Alexander is the director of global operations and events for the Creative Class Group. She handles client relations for and management of all domestic and international speaking engagements and consulting work.
She works with a wide array of clientele to stage large scale, high profile events around the world, APEC CEO Summit with President Obama and Hilary Rodham Clinton in Hawaii, Creativity Conference with President Clinton in Washington D.C., Global Cities Forum in Abu Dhabi with heads of state, annual CityLab events in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Atlantic and The Aspen Institute to bring together over 300 of the world’s top mayors and the Asia Pacific Cities Summit in Korea with over 1,000 delegates and mayors from over 150 cities worldwide just to name a few. Clients include Fortune 100 companies, high level government, education, healthcare, nonprofit and economic development organizations. Project management on consulting work for BMW, Converse, Starwood, IBM, Philips, Cirque du Soleil, Audi, Pinewood Studios, Zappos, Kraft and Johnson & Johnson just to name a few. She also manages social media and publishing efforts.
Reham received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan with a double major in Political Science and Communications and post-graduate work at Wayne State University. Reham has a background in advertising and marketing and has worked as a freelance corporate consultant for the past several years. She was a contributor for her local Fox 2 affiliate and a long time columnist for the Detroit News, Calgary Sun and the Record.
Christian Unverzagt is a partner in design. He is also the architectural designer of Richard Florida’s research institute, the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He is a designer and educator based in Detroit where he directs M1/dtw, a nationally recognized, multidisciplinary studio working at the intersection of design and cultural production. Unverzagt is also on the faculty at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.
Unverzagt has an undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Michigan, studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, and received a Master of Architecture (with distinction) from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles. He is the founding designer of the Michigan Architecture Papers, a publication series which has received numerous awards including a Series Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). His work has been published and exhibited internationally.
Principal of Benfield Partners in New York City, Chris Benfield works on a variety of architectural, product and strategy based projects for clients worldwide speaking on architecture and the importance of place. Previously he was a Senior Strategist for the Arnell Group’s Innovation Lab, Peter Marino, MR Architecture + Décor and was a founding principal of M1/DTW, a nationally recognized multidisciplinary studio. Chris holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan and a Master of Fine Arts with distinction from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and has taught and lectured at a number of schools including Pratt Institute, University of Maryland, West Virginia University, College for Creative Studies and Cranbrook. His work has been published in Scout, 306090, New York Times, Interior Design Magazine, Clear Magazine and Archinect.
Zoltan J. Acs speaks to the importance of entrepreneurship for economic development and its role in the global economy. He is a professor at George Mason University School of Public Policy and Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Public Policy. He is also a Research Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Economics in Jena, Germany and a visiting professor at Imperial College Business School in London. He is coeditor and founder of Small Business Economics, the leading entrepreneurship and small business publication in the world.
Previously, he held the position of Doris and Robert McCurdy Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, in the Robert G. Merrick School of Business, University of Baltimore. He has also served as: Research Fellow at the U. S. Bureau of the Census, Chief Economic Advisor at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Associate Director of Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) at the University of Maryland, Research Fellow at the Science Center Berlin, Research Associate at the Institute on Western Europe at Columbia University and Scholar-in-Residence at the Kauffman Foundation.
Dr. Acs has held faculty positions at Middlebury College and The University of Illinois-Springfield. Dr. Acs is a leading advocate of the importance of entrepreneurship for economic development. He received the 2001 International Award for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Research, on behalf of The Swedish National Board for Industrial and Technical Development. He has published more than 100 articles and 20 books, including articles in the American Economic Review, Review of Economics and Statistics, Kyklos, Journal of Urban Economics, Economica, Research Policy and Science Policy. His most recent book is Entrepreneurship, Growth and Public Policy, Cambridge University Press.
Ajay Agrawal speaks on the economics of strategy, innovation and creativity. He is the Peter Munk Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management where he teaches courses on strategy, creativity, and innovation. He is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, MA and Director of the Program on Innovation and Creative Industries at the Martin Prosperity Institute.
Professor Agrawal has presented his research on the economics of innovation and creativity at a variety of institutions including Harvard University, MIT, Stanford University, and the Federal Reserve Bank. He has testified as an expert witness before the Canadian Copyright Board, authored policy papers for provincial and federal government agencies, and advised organizations in various fields including robotics, digital media, television broadcasting, intellectual property valuation, music performance, software development, wireless, automotive, bio-therapeutics, and pharmaceuticals.
Professor Agrawal has been recognized as “Professor of the Year” by the past four consecutive graduating classes of the MBA program at the Rotman School of Management. He holds a Ph.D. in Strategy and Business Economics as well as a Masters in Engineering from the University of British Columbia. Professor Agrawal is currently a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University.
Don Carter is an expert speaker on urban design and development. He is the David Lewis Director of Urban Design and Regional Engagement of the Remaking Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. He also teaches in the Master of Urban Design program in the School of Architecture.
Prior to joining Carnegie Mellon University in July 2009, Carter was president of Urban Design Associates where he led many of the firm’s most complex projects, drawing upon his broad international experience as an architect, urban designer, and developer. He continues to serve as consulting principal to the firm.
Carter is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, a member of the Congress for the New Urbanism, and a member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) where he was national chair of the Inner City Council.
Previously, at ULI, he served on the Affordable Housing Forum, Infill Development Forum, Residential Development Council, and Entertainment Development Council. Carter is past chair of the ULI Pittsburgh District Council, and past president of the Pittsburgh Chapter, AIA. He has lectured and published internationally on urban design and architecture.
Carter currently serves on the board of the Andy Warhol Museum, and previously served on the boards of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Pittsburgh Zoo, Leadership Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, Pittsburgh Public Theater, and LaRoche College Board of Regents. He earned a Bachelor of Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University and did post-graduate work in urban design and regional planning at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Professor DiFrancesco is an expert in multi-regional economic modeling and analysis as well as regional economic impact analysis, cited as an acknowledged authority in this area by several internationally peer-reviewed publications and professional reports.
After completing M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Regional Science at McMaster University, Dr. DiFrancesco joined the Department of Geography & Program in Planning at the University of Toronto in 1995. Currently, Dr. DiFrancesco is an Associate Professor of economic geography and regional economic planning and Graduate Coordinator in that department.
Professor DiFrancesco is also the President of Regional Analytics Inc., a professional consulting practice that both draws from and feeds into his scholarly research. Regional Analytics specializes in socioeconomic impact analysis and forecasting, and has considerable experience in this area. Regional Analytics Inc., has completed economic impact analyses (for public and private sector clients) for spatial units ranging from Canada as a whole to small rural communities, including most regional aggregations in-between.
Mike Dover is an expert speaker on the role of technology in today’s business environment. Technology and business thought leader Mike Dover is Managing Partner of Socialstruct Advisory Group and co-author of Wikibrands: Reinventing Your Business in a Customer-Driven Marketplace. Previously he was responsible for operations, content quality, and client management for $9 million, multi-year research studies on the intersections among technology, business strategy and society at nGenera Insight, where he served as Vice President, Research Operations.
He is a contributor to many bestselling business books including Wikinomics and Grown Up Digital. His areas of expertise include mass collaboration, the Net Generation (Gen Y), technology and business models, popular culture, social networking, the blogosphere, Web 2.0, and human capital.
Chris Leinberger, a land use strategist, teacher, developer, researcher and author, balances business realities with social and environmental issues. Mr. Leinberger is a Professor and founding Director of the Graduate Real Estate Development Program at the University of Michigan, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC., founding partner of Arcadia Land Company, a new urbanism/transit-oriented development and consulting firm, and President of Locus; Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors.
His most recent book is The Option of Urbanism, Investing in a New American Dream, published in 2008 by Island Press. He is also the author of Strategic Planning for Real Estate Companies. He has written for numerous publications, such as The Atlantic Monthly and Urban Land magazine. He has been profiled by CNN, National Public Radio, Infrastructurist, and Washington Post among other broadcast, web and print media.
Leinberger was voted one of the “Top 100 Urban Thinkers” in a poll conducted by Planetizen, the international urban planning and architecture website, in 2009. He was the William H. Whyte Award winner by Partners for Livable Communities in 2010. Leinberger is a graduate of Swarthmore College and the Harvard Business School.
David J. Miller is a community facilitator with the Creative Class Group. As a founding developer of the Creative Communities Leadership Project, he brings his vast experience in economic development, real-estate, and campus entrepreneurship to help communities achieve greater economic prosperity. Along with extensive experience in global policy, David has worked as an adviser to large commercial real estate tenants and multifamily property owners, directed Internet operations and strategy for MachineWeb.com, Inc., and managed e-commerce and digital music for Rollingstone.com.
David also has extensive experience in the global policy arena having served as researcher and writer for Ambassador David M. Abshire, founder of The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C.
David holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, a master’s in international politics of Asia from the University of London (dissertation title: Changing Definitions of Security in the Information Age: The People’s Republic of China and the Internet), and a bachelor’s in international relations from the University of Michigan. Currently pursuing a Ph.D. in entrepreneurship.
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