In January 2007, the Knight Creative Communities Initiative, a partnership between the Knight Foundation and Richard Florida’s Creative Class Group, selected Tallahassee as one of three regions in the nation to participate in a community-driven project that aimed to build sustained regional economic prosperity. Tallahassee was chosen due to its high concentration of jobs in government and education and its consistent inability to attract and retain members of the creative sector, which social theorist Richard Florida argues is the driving force of economic development.
Thirty-one community “catalysts” were selected to assess the region’s potential for economic growth, establish a broad community vision and determine key initiatives that would bring greater economic prosperity to the region based on trend research submitted by the Creative Class Group. These community volunteers worked to educate, engage and empower other area residents to assist in helping each initiative achieve success.
In 2008, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation reviewed the success of the Tallahassee initiatives and awarded a five-year grant in the amount of $570,000 to begin the Knight Creative Communities Institute. The institute strives to attract and retain young professionals and develop a more adaptable workforce for Florida’s capital city. It will build on the momentum created by the successful Knight Creative pilot project over the last two years.
Relevance to the State of Florida
Tallahassee wants to serve as a model for the state in terms of a passionate community taking ownership of its economic future. With continued community involvement and the support of local and state leaders, KCCI hopes to bring unprecedented economic benefits to the region by attracting and retaining members of the creative sector, which will in turn benefit the state as a whole by creating jobs and transforming the state capital into a thriving economic region. Tallahassee community catalysts met with Governor Charlie Crist, who commended and encouraged the effort.
Richard Florida’s Research
According to The Rise of the Creative Class, members of the creative sector work in the fields of technology, research and development, arts and culture, professional and managerial, and education and training. This sector makes up 30 percent of the U.S. workforce, accounts for nearly 50 percent of the country’s wages, and is expected to create 10 million jobs in the next decade.
Richard Florida’s economic research maintains that the ability of a region to attract and retain members of the creative sector and stimulate economic prosperity depends on a balance of the “4T’s”:
- Tolerance: A supportive environment for diverse self-expression; a sense of inclusiveness; diversity
- Technology: Innovation; accessible mechanisms for people to turn their talent into marketable goods
- Territorial Assets: Quality of place; the things that make Tallahassee great
- Talent: The workforce
To attract and retain talent, a community needs a high concentration of tolerance, technology and territorial assets. A talented workforce will fuel continued economic growth.
How Tallahassee Measures Up
In terms of talent, while Tallahassee’s potential for future talent is significantly above the national average and leads other similar-sized regions, its brain drain index, or its current ability to attract and retain talent, lags significantly behind the rest of the nation and cities with a comparable population.
Measures of tolerance, technology and territorial assets also show Tallahassee is lagging in these areas compared to the nation and cities of a similar size. Tolerance indicators include racial, ethnic and gay populations, while technology measures take the concentration of high tech firms and local patents into account, and territorial assets consider factors such as crime, annual sunny days, arts establishments, health care costs and commute time.