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Centuries ago, the country's most valued resources were fur, timber and land. In the new economy, our most valued natural resources may be the creative workers among us.

Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class (Basic Books, 2002), argues that the role of creativity is gaining prominence in our society — especially as it affects the economy. He estimates there are 38 million “creative types� in the United States, accounting for almost one-third of the work force, up from 10 percent, or just 3 million, in 1900. The core group, according to Florida's analysis, consists of some 15 million workers who produce new ideas, technology or creative content for a living. They work in science and engineering, in architecture and design, in education, and in the arts, music and entertainment. The class also includes 23 million professionals in business, finance, law and health care who engage in complex problem-solving.

Whether dreaming up a new understanding of nature's mysterious ways or hatching fresh solutions to design or engineering problems, these creative types share a common ethos that values inventiveness, individuality, nonconformity and meritocracy. The decisions people in this category make (particularly where to locate) will affect which cities or regions thrive or wither. Those areas that are home to more creative capital, Florida maintains, are likely to perform well in the long term. Not surprisingly, creativity tends to flourish in places that support cutting-edge music and vibrant arts communities. It's a cultural milieu where you'll likely find lively street scenes, bookstores and cafés, where openness to diversity and the exchange of ideas are part of the landscape.

The accompanying map, created by American Demographics, shows the regions with a population of over 1 million people where members of Florida's creative class are most likely to be found. The areas are ranked based on the percentage of the local labor force that belongs to this group. Cities marked by a dark red dot rank highest in the percentage of the work force in the creative class, while cities whose dots are blue or gray rank on the low end of the scale.

Which areas are the best breeding grounds for ideas and innovation? The nation's top creative centers include major east coast cities, such as Washington, D.C., Boston and the Raleigh-Durham area, and leading high-tech centers, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Austin, Texas. However, creative magnet locales are not confined to large metro areas. Some smaller spots — Boulder, Colo., Santa Fe, N.M., Madison, Wis. and even less obvious places like Gainesville, Fla. and Huntsville, Ala. — also boast significant concentrations of the creative class. Creative workers often take root in areas that are home to major research universities or institutions. Just as the canals and railroads of earlier times were a source of competitive advantage, the presence of a major research center can spur a region's economic growth by luring talent, serving as an idea incubator and then spawning spin-off companies. According to Florida, it is creative centers like these that show strong increases in area employment and population and that will likely be the economic winners in years to come.



Rank by share of creative class*: 1
Creative class: 38.4%
Working class: 17.8%
Service class: 43.8%
Total employment: 3.8 million


Rank by share of creative class*: 2
Creative class: 38.2%
Working class: 22.0%
Service class: 39.7%
Total employment: 0.6 million


Rank by share of creative class*: 3
Creative class: 38.0%
Working class: 17.7%
Service class: 44.3%
Total employment: 2.0 million


Rank by share of creative class*: 4
Creative class: 36.4%
Working class: 18.8%
Service class: 44.8%
Total employment: 0.6 million


Rank by share of creative class*: 5
Creative class: 34.8%
Working class: 22.3%
Service class: 42.6%
Total employment: 3.5 million


Rank by share of creative class*: 6
Creative class: 33.9%
Working class: 24.6%
Service class: 41.4%
Total employment: 1.7 million

* Among regions with a population of 1 million or more.

Source: Richard Florida's analysis of Occupation and Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1999

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