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

September 2 • 2:00 AM

Introducing the New Issue of ‘Pacific Standard’

The science of self-control, the rise of biblical counseling, why middle school doesn’t have to suck, and more in our September/October 2014 print issue.


September 1 • 1:00 PM

Television and Overeating: What We Watch Matters

New research finds fast-moving programming leads to mindless overeating.



September 1 • 6:00 AM

Why Someone Named Monty Iceman Sold Doogie Howser’s Estate

How unusual names, under certain circumstances, can lead to success.



August 29 • 4:00 PM

The Hidden Costs of Tobacco Debt

Even when taxpayers aren’t explicitly on the hook, tobacco bonds can cost states and local governments money. Here’s how.


August 29 • 2:00 PM

Why Don’t Men and Women Wear the Same Gender-Neutral Bathing Suits?

They used to in the 1920s.


August 29 • 11:48 AM

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.


August 29 • 10:00 AM

True Darwinism Is All About Chance

Though the rich sometimes forget, Darwin knew that nature frequently rolls the dice.


August 29 • 8:00 AM

Why Our Molecular Make-Up Can’t Explain Who We Are

Our genes only tell a portion of the story.


August 29 • 6:00 AM

Strange Situations: Attachment Theory and Sexual Assault on College Campuses

When college women leave home, does attachment behavior make them more vulnerable to campus rape?


August 29 • 4:00 AM

Forgive Your Philandering Partner—and Pay the Price

New research finds people who forgive an unfaithful romantic partner are considered weaker and less competent than those who ended the relationship.


August 28 • 4:00 PM

Some Natural-Looking Zoo Exhibits May Be Even Worse Than the Old Concrete Ones

They’re often designed for you, the paying visitor, and not the animals who have to inhabit them.


August 28 • 2:00 PM

What I Learned From Debating Science With Trolls

“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but occasionally ignoring it can lead to rewards.


August 28 • 12:00 PM

The Ice Bucket Challenge’s Meme Money

The ALS Association has raised nearly $100 million over the past month, 50 times what it raised in the same period last year. How will that money be spent, and how can non-profit executives make a windfall last?


August 28 • 11:56 AM

Outlawing Water Conflict: California Legislators Confront Risky Groundwater Loophole

California, where ambitious agriculture sucks up 80 percent of the state’s developed water, is no stranger to water wrangles. Now one of the worst droughts in state history is pushing legislators to reckon with its unwieldy water laws, especially one major oversight: California has been the only Western state without groundwater regulation—but now that looks set to change.


August 28 • 11:38 AM

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.


August 28 • 10:00 AM

The Five Words You Never Want to Hear From Your Doctor

“Sometimes people just get pains.”


August 28 • 8:00 AM

Why I’m Not Sharing My Coke

Andy Warhol, algorithms, and a bunch of popular names printed on soda cans.


August 28 • 6:00 AM

Can Outdoor Art Revitalize Outdoor Advertising?

That art you’ve been seeing at bus stations and billboards—it’s serving a purpose beyond just promoting local museums.


August 28 • 4:00 AM

Linguistic Analysis Reveals Research Fraud

An examination of papers by the discredited Diederik Stapel finds linguistic differences between his legitimate and fraudulent studies.


August 28 • 2:00 AM

Poverty and Geography: The Myth of Racial Segregation

Migration, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality (not to mention class), can be a poverty-buster.


August 27 • 4:00 PM

The ‘Non-Lethal’ Flash-Bang Grenades Used in Ferguson Can Actually Be Quite Lethal

A journalist says he was singed by a flash-bang fired by St. Louis County police trying to disperse a crowd, raising questions about how to use these military-style devices safely and appropriately.


August 27 • 2:00 PM

Do Better Looking People Have Better Personalities Too?

An experiment on users of the dating site OKCupid found that members judge both looks and personality by looks alone.


August 27 • 12:00 PM

Love Can Make You Stronger

A new study links oxytocin, the hormone most commonly associated with social bonding, and the one that your body produces during an orgasm, with muscle regeneration.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.

Being a Couch Potato: Not So Bad After All?

For those who feel guilty about watching TV, a new study provides redemption.

The Big One

One third of the United States federal budget for fighting wildfires goes toward one percent of such fires. September/October 2014 big-one-fires-final

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