Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Rust Belt Chic Migration

Understanding why the Creative Class flocks to Boulder or Portland is easy. What about Niagara Falls? The attraction:

“More than just the monetary incentive … it would be cool to work at a place where these ideas are actually coming out of City Hall,” said Stephen Epps, an applicant from San Jose, Calif., who studies urban planning. “It’s a pretty smart way to go about getting new people into a city that has been losing population for four decades.” ...

... “We’ve been trying to get people to think of Niagara Falls as the next cool place,” said Mayor Paul A. Dyster. “We’ve lost our brightest, most ambitious young people. They decided that to pursue their dreams, they could not do that in Niagara Falls. We’ve got to change that perception.”

I don't think the mayor means the next Austin. He's hoping to be the next Detroit. Niagara Falls is promoting its urban frontier assets. There aren't any "Ts" in place. There's a big difference between Creative Class chic and Rust Belt Chic. You either want to party with Lebron James in South Beach or have your own Pittsburgh Potty.

Speaking of King James, anyone remember what Richard Florida wrote about The Decision? My favorite passage:

The more I think about it, the more the reaction from white, privileged America seems to me to smack of racism and classism. Does anyone criticize Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or the Google or Facebook guys when they abandon their old companies and home towns to launch new startups? Yes, the LeBron James show was self-aggrandizing and over-the-top, but when all was said and done, it wasn’t all about Lebron James either.

Boston still whines about losing the Facebook guy. As for Bill Gates, he moved Microsoft from Albuquerque to his hometown of Seattle. Gates and Paul Allen did the boomerang before it was Rust Belt Chic. But don't let the facts get in the way of a sermon. Buried in the lust for stardom is the common thread geography:

So why Miami? Why would the “Three Kings” choose this particular location over, say, the Big Apple or L.A.? The reasons, I believe, lie deeper than its low taxes, abundant sun, and great nightlife. Experts and average people alike tend to think that companies pick places that offer the best cost profiles and that people go to the cities that give them the highest salaries and biggest bang for the buck.

But real entrepreneurs – those who want to build something new – sometimes pick “frontier locations,” places where they can mold the environment to help them reach their desired goals, like the tech pioneers of  Silicon Valley in the late 60s and 70s, or Hollywood’s early moguls. Perhaps this is what Miami had to offer “the Three Kings.” The place is diverse enough, open-minded enough, free-wheeling enough, and hungry enough that they can make their own rules.

Emphasis added. Greenfields unleash innovation, stoke creativity. Brownfields are the new greenfields. Niagara Falls doesn't have talent, technology, and tolerance. Downtown lacks dazzling amenities. But it does have an urban frontier, like Seattle did when Gates did his return migration. If King James wanted a frontier location, he could have stayed in Cleveland. If he felt the need to leave where he grew up, Oakland or Detroit would have been a great destination. Ultimately, it was all about glam and glitz.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great info, great blog. So, did Jay-Z & the Brooklyn Nets buzz create a frontier into (long associated slum but now cool to live in) Brooklyn, or are they just reaping the tail end of it's already established status as a frontier?