Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Native Angst

Becoming more tolerant is one way a region or state could cash in on the talent dividend. I'm unclear as to whether or not Richard Florida thinks of increasing tolerance as a strategy to attract the creative class. However, I do know that some people interpret his work in that manner:

What is happening in Iowa now could jumpstart the future because a diversity of people and lifestyles often creates the types of jobs that will fuel a 21st-century economy. Best-selling author and professor Richard Florida famously argues that tolerance for homosexuals and other minorities is part of what stimulates big new ideas, cutting-edge industry and regional growth. It is not gayness per se that spurs this change, but the openness to fresh, new ideas that diversity represents. When Massachusetts made gay marriage legal, couples flooded into the state to take advantage of the law. Cape Cod became the Niagara Falls for gay newlyweds, many of whom stayed to live and work in the state.

With gay marriage on the books, Iowa could be rewarded with an influx of creative-class consumers and entrepreneurs eager to exploit the state's many resources. What better way to bring the young and the restless to the prairie than to become a destination for a new generation of homesteaders hungry to re-imagine the New Heartland?

(Blog reference Brian Kelsey at Civic Analytics) Looking at a recent list of cool cities, I don't see centers of tolerance. (I don't think such places exist) I submit Charleston, SC:

Re: “Yankee yokels bug local yokels

Excuse me, but, I am proud to be a Yankee that has relocated here. Last time I checked, it's a free country buddy. Stop worrying about what everyone is doing and get a life of your own. Then maybe you won't be affected by the migration of people coming down to Charleston. You should feel lucky to live in a city that attracts so many people!

Do you really think that Charleston is the only city that has an increasing population of northerners? Don't you want to live in a city that grows and brings in new people and new ideas? Half of the businesses in town are run by people not from here which gives this small town a little hope for diversity. But then again, you people down here just love your "ways" and narrow minded thinking, huh?

Charleston (a city I know well) has many charms, but welcoming outsiders with open arms isn't one of them. Natives don't much care for newcomers. That's true just about anywhere in the United States. People move to places despite the narrow views of locals. Did California Proposition 187 stem the tide of immigration? Did Colorado Amendment 2 stifle growth in the Front Range? No, of course not.

And easing local xenophobia, even if you could, won't generate a talent dividend.


Schultz said...

Wrong about Charleston. Of course there are going to be southerners who do not welcome outsiders with open arms, especially "yankees." These are the same folks who still waive the confederate flag. They probably believe the BS about President Obama not being a natural born citizen, too. I know a lot of people who have relocated from the North to Charleston. My sister is one of them. She's lived there for 14 years now and she would never move.

You're going to find pockets of intolerance in any city you go to, especially in the south, so one negative article about "damn yankees" does not make a stereotype. Head a bit further south to Savannah Georgia. Plenty of creative types live there as well.

Jim Russell said...

Most of my Rust Belt Refugee relatives ended up in two places: Charlotte Area and Charleston, SC. Charleston is remarkably parochial. So is Savannah, for that matter. And you can find creative types in both places.

My kin enjoy living in Charleston. I love visiting (I was there in early June for my niece's graduation from James Island High School). But one can experience intolerance and still like a place. That happens all the time, just about anywhere. But just because "plenty of creative types live there" doesn't mean the region is especially tolerant.

Some natives simply don't like the growth and detest newcomers for changing things (e.g. the comment about James and John's Islands).