Menus Subscribe Search
intuit-hq

Intuit headquarters in Silicon Valley. (PHOTO: COOLCAESAR/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

End of Creative Class Migration

• June 28, 2013 • 1:37 PM

Intuit headquarters in Silicon Valley. (PHOTO: COOLCAESAR/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The best and brightest have more options than ever before. Now, companies need to go where the talent is located.

Richard Florida says the world is spiky. Thomas Friedman holds the opposite view. The world is flat. Truth be told, the world is spiky and flat. Both Florida and Friedman are wrong. The Creative Class economy is getting flatter:

New York arts executives say their biggest concern is one they have no way to measure but are nevertheless convinced of: that art school graduates aren’t even attempting to move to New York at the beginning of their careers. Mr. Davis of Vinylux says five of his employees are graduates of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design who moved straight to Philadelphia after graduation.

“Now, the smartest kid has a whole set of options; the best and the brightest go to Berlin, or Austin, Portland or Minneapolis,” says Robert Elmes, director of Galapagos Art Space, a Dumbo performance space for emerging artists, that is opening a venue in Berlin. “The recession has created a situation where people don’t consider New York City to be a place of opportunity.”

The above voiced brain drain anxiety is from 2010. Take it with a grain of salt. A few artists relocating to Paducah, Kentucky, isn’t a crisis. Every community complains about out-migration. Cry wolf. Get funding.

Still, the ironic migration is worth noting. Garner a few more data points and we might have a trend. Tony Hsieh’s bet on Downtown Las Vegas:

Silicon Valley is facing heat from cities like New York, Seattle, and Denver. Indeed, it’s no longer the only hub sparking innovation.

Las Vegas is one of these up-and-coming alternatives competing for early-stage startups. If casinos and bright lights spring to mind when you think of Vegas, you’ll be in for a shock. The area that is attracting tech entrepreneurs is the local community just north of the glamorous strip, and there’s a lot less neon here than on the more famous boulevard of casinos.

Startups are setting up shop on Fremont Street in the heart of the downtown corridor. To cater to the needs of the new arrivals, new office spaces, co-working spots and trendy restaurants have rapidly emerged.

Tech, part of what economist Enrico Moretti terms the “Innovation Economy,” is converging. Until very recently, the Innovation Economy was diverging. Richard Florida was right. The world was spiky. Now, Silicon Valley is the next Detroit. I’m serious.

When labor costs become an overriding concern, an economic epoch has reached a tipping point. With efficiency gains, less employees produce more goods. As manufacturing converged, innovation diverged. Detroit fell. Silicon Valley rose. Back to New York:

The talent gap is viewed by many as being one of the most pressing concerns facing the city’s tech industry. New York is only 38th among the 50 states in the percentage of bachelor’s degrees awarded in science and engineering and 28th overall in the Technology and Science Work Force Index, which measures the skills of the state’s population at large.

Tech is booming in parts of New York, but some firms are still struggling to fill engineering positions. Condition One, a leader in video technology, recently decamped to Silicon Valley from Brooklyn, citing access to a larger pool of talent in northern California.

Companies go where the talent is located. Silicon Valley isn’t the only hot spot competing with Brooklyn. Watch out for Pittsburgh:

This diversified support system is an oft-cited reason among those that have moved to new cities for professional opportunities. To this end, although the university system may have initially been the main reason CivicScience founder John Dick considered Pittsburgh, he wouldn’t have done so without the array of other benefits. ”As a software and data mining company, there is no better source of the kind of talent we need than [Carnegie Mellon University],” says Dick. “When you factor in the great standard of living here, the beautiful outdoors in the region, and the progressive trends in local development, it was actually quite an easy decision to make.”

Emphasis added. Brooklyn and Silicon Valley are talent magnets. As more places such as Las Vegas come online, the competition for Innovation Economy employees is more fierce. Greater demand from a flatter world (economic convergence) pushes up wages. Microsoft starts bellyaching for immigrants. Instead of competing with Creative Class cool Austin and Portland, a software and data mining company moves to Rust Belt Chic Pittsburgh where that talent is produced.

New York City is wise to the winds of change. It wants to be like Pittsburgh. From Aaron Renn’s (The Urbanophile) review of The Metropolitan Revolution:

The most notable thing here in my view is that New York believes it has to be in the tech talent production business. NYC has traditionally been the ultimate talent attractor. They didn’t need to worry about producing the world’s top talent because it would seek them out. Silicon Valley and most tech hubs rely on this kind of talent attraction for their supply. By setting up a tech talent factory in town, however, NYC is saying that they don’t think they can meet their tech industry ambitions solely through hoovering up outsiders. They need to be in the production business as well. I’m not sure what Jim Russell thinks of this, but he’s often claimed that the era of prosperity on an attraction model is waning in a more convergent world (i.e., where tech & talent are becoming more decentralized). NYC seems to be responding to this reality.

Emphasis added. Perhaps there is more to this artist exodus after all. The rent is too damn high for the Creative Class. Brooklyn is too cool for school, until now. Talent attraction is no longer good enough for economic development. Suck it, Portland.

Jim Russell

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

July 25 • 4:00 AM

Arizona’s Double-Talk on Execution and Torture

The state is certain that Joseph Wood’s death was totally constitutional. But they’re looking into it.


July 24 • 4:00 PM

Overweight Americans Have the Lowest Risk of Premature Death

Why do we use the term “normal weight” when talking about BMI? What’s presented as normal certainly isn’t the norm, and it may not even be what’s most healthy.


July 24 • 2:00 PM

California’s Lax Policing of the Fracking Industry Has Put the Drought-Stricken State in a Terrible Situation

The state’s drought has forced farmers to rely on groundwater, even as aquifers have been intentionally polluted due to exemptions for the oil industry.


July 24 • 12:00 PM

What’s in a Name? The Problem With Washington’s Football Team

A senior advisor to the National Congress of American Indians once threw an embarrassing themed party that involved headdresses. He regrets that costume now, but knows his experience is one many others can relate to.


July 24 • 11:00 AM

How Wildlife Declines Are Leading to Slavery and Terrorism

As wildlife numbers dwindle, wildlife crimes are rising—and that’s fueling a raft of heinous crimes committed against humans.


July 24 • 10:58 AM

How the Supremes Pick Their Cases—and Why Obamacare Is Safe for Now

The opponents of Obamacare who went one for two in circuit court rulings earlier this week are unlikely to see their cases reach the Supreme Court.



July 24 • 9:48 AM

The People Who Are Scared of Dogs

While more people fear snakes or spiders, with dogs everywhere, cynophobia makes everyday public life a constant challenge.


July 24 • 8:00 AM

Newton’s Needle: On Scientific Self-Experimentation

It is all too easy to treat science as a platform that allows the observer to hover over the messiness of life, unobserved and untouched. But by remembering the role of the body in science, perhaps we humanize it as well.


July 24 • 6:00 AM

Commercializing the Counterculture: How the Summer Music Festival Went Mainstream

With painted Volkswagen buses, talk of “free love,” and other reminders of the Woodstock era replaced by advertising and corporate sponsorships, hippie culture may be dying, but a new subculture—a sort of purgatory between hipster and hippie—is on the rise.


July 24 • 5:00 AM

In Praise of Our Short Attention Spans

Maybe there’s a good reason why it seems like there’s been a decline in our our ability to concentrate for a prolonged period of time.


July 24 • 4:00 AM

How Stereotypes Take Shape

New research from Scotland finds they’re an unfortunate product of the way we process and share information.


July 23 • 4:00 PM

Who Doesn’t Like Atheists?

The Pew Research Center asked Americans of varying religious affiliations how they felt about each other.


July 23 • 2:00 PM

We Need to Start Tracking Patient Harm and Medical Mistakes Now

Top patient-safety experts call on Congress to step in and, among other steps, give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wider responsibility for measuring medical mistakes.


July 23 • 12:19 PM

How a CEO’s Fiery Battle Speeches Can Shape Ethical Behavior

CEO war speech might inspire ethical decisions internally and unethical ones among competing companies.


July 23 • 12:00 PM

Why Do We Love the ‘Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’ Game?

It’s easy enough to turn yourself into a virtual celebrity, complete with fame and mansions—but it will likely cost you.


July 23 • 11:49 AM

Modern Technology Still Doesn’t Protect Americans From Deadly Landslides

No landslide monitoring or warning systems are being used to protect vulnerable communities.


July 23 • 10:00 AM

Outing the Death-Drug Distributors

Calling all hackers: It’s time to go Assange on capital punishment.


July 23 • 8:00 AM

The Surprising Appeal of Products That Require Effort to Use

New research finds they enable consumers to re-establish a feeling that they’re in control of their lives.



July 23 • 6:00 AM

How the Other Half Lifts: What Your Workout Says About Your Social Class

Why can’t triathletes and weightlifters get along?


July 23 • 5:02 AM

Battle of the Public Intellectuals: Edward Glaeser vs. Richard Florida

On gentrification and housing costs.


July 23 • 4:00 AM

Our Fear of Immigrants

Why did a group of fourth graders rally in support of an undocumented classmate while the citizens of Murrieta, California, tried to stop immigrant children from entering their town?


July 22 • 4:00 PM

Can Meditation Really Slow Aging?

Is there real science in the spiritualism of meditation? Jo Marchant meets a Nobel Prize-winner who thinks so.



Follow us


Subscribe Now

How Wildlife Declines Are Leading to Slavery and Terrorism

As wildlife numbers dwindle, wildlife crimes are rising—and that's fueling a raft of heinous crimes committed against humans.

How a CEO’s Fiery Battle Speeches Can Shape Ethical Behavior

CEO war speech might inspire ethical decisions internally and unethical ones among competing companies.

Modern Technology Still Doesn’t Protect Americans From Deadly Landslides

No landslide monitoring or warning systems are being used to protect vulnerable communities.

The Link Between Carbs, Gut Microbes, and Colon Cancer

Reduced carb intake among mice protected them from colon cancer.

The New Weapon Against Disease-Spreading Insects Is Big Data

Computer models that pinpoint the likely locations of mosquitoes and tsetse flies are helping officials target vector control efforts.

The Big One

Today, the United States produces less than two percent of the clothing purchased by Americans. In 1990, it produced nearly 50 percent. July/August 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.