Results of Richard Florida and Meric Gertler’s “Competing on Creativity”
Ontario cities, with their social diversity and artistic creativity, have the kind of “creative capital” needed for economic growth and competitiveness in today’s world, according to a new research study. Many of the city-regions have both large immigrant populations and large numbers of professional artists, writers and performers — two statistical factors that have been found to correlate strongly with technology-based economic growth. Some city-regions are enjoying such growth already, and public policy throughout Canada should be geared to helping the process along, the study concludes. The research was conducted by professors Richard Florida of Carnegie Mellon University and Meric Gertler of the University of Toronto. Florida is the author of the best-selling book The Rise of the Creative Class and a consultant to cities and regions in the United States and Canada; Gertler is an expert on regional systems of innovation and the Ontario economy.
It is based on research methods used previously by Florida to examine the new patterns of economic growth in the U.S. There he had found that leading high-tech regions such as San Francisco, Austin, Boston and others tended to score very highly on measures of social tolerance and diversity — with high proportions of foreign-born people and gays among the residents, for instance — and also scored highly on his Bohemian Index, the proportion of people working in the arts. These factors are crucial, he found, because they provide a social setting that helps the region attract, retain and galvanize “creative-class” people in many fields: highly creative engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs, for instance, along with the artistic types.
The Canadian study established, first, that the same statistical linkages are present north of the border. City-regions in Ontario and Canada that score highest on the Mosaic Index (percent foreign-born) and Bohemian Index do indeed tend to have higher levels of technology-intensive industry: the pattern is not just a quirk peculiar to the U.S. And second, the study found that city-regions in Ontario and Canada compare very well on the key measures to their U.S. counterparts of similar size.
- Scores on the Mosaic and Bohemian indices were consistently high for city-regions in Ontario. To quote the report, this indicates that “Ontario city-regions have a solid foundation in these areas to compete against US city-regions,” as they “possess the underlying social and cultural assets on which to build successful local economies.”
- Some city-regions already are becoming significant competitors. For example of the 43 largest metros in the U.S. and Canada combined, Toronto ranks first on the Mosaic Index, 4th on the Bohemian and 15th in high-tech employment. Among smaller regions in the 250,000 to 500,000 population bracket, Kitchener and London, Ontario rank in the upper half on all three measures.
- Larger city-regions in other provinces, such as Montreal and Vancouver, get high marks across the board as well.
Comments and Implications
Richard Florida sums up the research findings as follows: “The most successful city-regions anywhere are the ones with a social environment that is open to creativity and diversity of all sorts. The ability to attract creative people in arts and culture, and to be open to people of different ethnic, racial and lifestyle groups, provides distinct advantages to regions in generating innovations, growing and attracting high-technology industries, and spurring economic growth. I’m really impressed with how strong Ontario’s cities are in these areas. You have real assets here that should drive competitiveness and innovation.”
One improvement opportunity noted in the study is in levels of educational attainment. Ontario’s and Canada’s city-regions tend to score slightly but consistently below their U.S. counterparts in percent of the adult population holding a university degree. This may be partly due to statistical anomalies or to the fact that Canada maintains a somewhat stronger manufacturing base (wherein degrees are not needed for many kinds of skilled work), but the study flags it as an area of concern nonetheless: most high-value creative industries require large pools of people with degrees.
Commenting on other implications of the research for Ontario, Meric Gertler says: “For provincial policy makers, this work confirms the importance of urban centres in the knowledge economy. At the municipal level, this work points to the importance of collaborative efforts between local governments, firms, and individuals to reinforce and strengthen the unique urban character of their city-regions. For all Ontarians, this work underscores the importance of immigration and settlement, as well as the nurturing of arts and creativity.”
The research was funded jointly by the Ontario Ministry of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation, and the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity. Institute Chairman Roger Martin, who is Dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and also chairs the Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress, found the results encouraging. “As we indicated in the Task Force’s recent annual report, Ontario, especially Toronto has the creative class to compete with our peer group in the U.S.,” Martin says. “The challenge we face is to ensure that we are building on this strength where it exists and that we are identifying practical improvement opportunities for our smaller cities to enable them to compete in attracting and retaining knowledgeable and creative workers.”
For more information call Jim Milway at the Institute at 416-920-1921 ext 222 or the study author, Meric Gertler, at 416-946-8923.
About the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity
The Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity is an independent not-for-profit organization established in 2001 to serve as the research arm of Ontario’s Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress.
Working Papers published by the Institute are primarily intended to inform the work of the Task Force. In addition, they are designed to raise public awareness and stimulate debate on a range of issues related to competitiveness and prosperity.
About the Task Force
The creation of the Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress was announced in Ontario’s April 2001 Speech from the Throne. Roger L. Martin, Dean of the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, is the Chairman.
The mandate of the Task Force is to measure and monitor Ontario’s competitiveness, productivity and economic progress compared to other provinces and U.S. states, and to report to the public on a regular basis.