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.
Richard Florida is one of the world’s leading urbanists.
He is a researcher and professor, serving as University Professor and Director of Cities at the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto, a Distinguished Fellow at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate, and a Visiting Fellow at Florida International University.
He is a writer and journalist, having penned several global best sellers, including the award winning The Rise of the Creative Class and his most recent book, The New Urban Crisis published in April 2017. He serves as senior editor for The Atlantic, where he co-founded and serves as Editor-at-Large for CityLab.
He is an entrepreneur, as founder of the Creative Class Group which works closely with companies and governments worldwide.
A 2013 MIT study named him the world’s most influential thought leader. And TIME magazine recognized his Twitter feed as one of the 140 most influential in the world.
He previously taught at Carnegie Mellon, Ohio State University, and George Mason University, and has been a visiting professor at Harvard and MIT and Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
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 Starwood Hotels – 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 Disney Live and Starbucks and events experience working with The Atlantic, CityLab, 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 The New York Times, Vogue Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Market Watch, CNN and The Globe and Mail .
She is also heavily involved in philanthropic including The United Nations Global Network on Digital Technologies and Sustainable Urbanization for UN Habitat, The Olympics Committee, Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, The National Ballet of Canada, St. Mike’s Hospital Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit, Luminato Festival, Travel & Leisure Rebel Awards, Le Miami, Objekt USA-Canada, AMBI 2.0 Gala, The Design–Exchange – DX Intersection, Isabella Blow Foundation, Girls E Mentorship, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Airports Council International, Council for International Visitors, The Founders Junior Council of the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Marketing Magazine Awards in Design.
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 was a ‘Business Best Seller,’ by Tattered Cover, the largest independent bookstore retailer in the U.S. and The Globe and Mail, Editor’s Pick.
Steven Pedigo is an expert in economic and urban development, city strategy and management, and placemaking. Steven has advised and collaborated with more than 50 cities, universities, developers, nonprofits, and Fortune 500 companies across the globe to build more creative, innovative, and inclusive communities.
Steven’s city clients include New York, Jerusalem, Vancouver, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Brisbane, the Yukon, Tulsa, Austin, Portland, Newark, San Diego-Tijuana, Miami, Sao Paulo, Monterrey, Mexico City, and many others. His corporate clients include BMW, Converse, Starwood Hotels, Philips, Cirque du Soleil, Audi, Pinewood Studios, Zappos, EDENS, Kraft, among others.
Steven is a professor of practice at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and the director of the LBJ Urban Lab. He is also the director of research and advising for the Creative Class Group.
Previously, he was clinical professor at New York University and the director of the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate Urban Lab. Earlier in his career, Steven served as vice president 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. distressed urban areas. Prior to ICIC, Steven was the vice president for business attraction and research for Greater Portland, Inc. He began his career as the director of research for the Greater Washington Initiative and Board of Trade.
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 all consulting projects and management of domestic and international speaking engagements.
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 Hillary 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 engagements 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 all 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.
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.
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