If You Could Live Anywhere...
Where would you live, if money and job were not factors? For a growing number of the world’s most desirable workers, money and job do not determine where the worker lives. Any place that has dependable Internet and cellular phone service can be home base. So the question then becomes, where on the planet offers the greatest lifestyle? A stimulating social scene? A variety of experiences?
The first social theorist to study and define contemporary lifestyles of the generation that is creating the norms of the 21st century is Richard Florida, who coined the term "creative class" to describe the highly mobile creators of intellectual property--designers, writers, artists, scientists--the inventors of our world. Florida writes about the phenomenon of these workers choosing where they live based on the activities and social scene they enjoy. They populate Asheville, North Carolina; Charlottesville, Virginia; Austin, Texas; Ithaca, New York; Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, and many other urban areas.
“Place itself, I began to realize, was the key factor,” Florida writes. ”So much so, that I coined a term—quality of place—to sum it up. I use the term in contrast with the more traditional concept of quality of life to cover the unique set of characteristics that define a place and make it attractive. Over time, my colleagues and I have come to refer to these characteristics as Territorial Assets, the fourth T of economic development after Technology, Talent, and Tolerance (what I have elsewhere called the 3Ts of Economic Growth).
“Authenticity—as in real buildings, real people, real history—is key. A place that’s full of chain stores, chain restaurants, and chain nightclubs is seen as inauthentic. Not only do those venues look pretty much the same everywhere, but they also offer the same experiences you could have anywhere,” Florida says.
Florida believes that big cities are the ultimate magnet for the world’s creatives, but we’ve seen enough growth in West Virginia towns such as Elkins, Fayetteville, Lewisburg, Shepherdstown, and Berkeley Springs to know that there’s a breed of creative who prefers having a substantial chunk of magnificent, challenging outdoors close at hand, which is one of West Virginia’s major trump cards. Give them the outdoors, as Florida has observed, welcome them, and these folks will take care of creating whatever else they want and need--for the benefit of the entire society.