Richard Florida recently gave a talk at the Rotman School as part of Toronto’s “Big City, Big Ideas” lecture series. It was called: Why Creativity Is the New Economy. You can watch it here via Rotman. It’s about an hour long.
If you’re familiar with the work of Richard Florida, you’ll find much of what he talks about familiar. But there is one point that I think is absolutely worth reiterating again, and again: The new economic unit of our time is the city. It used to be nations but, in today’s world, cities trump nations, provinces and states in terms economic importance.
Florida has long stressed this point in his work and I think he’s absolutely right. The problem, however, is that our governance structures are ill-suited to deal with this shift. There are too many layers of government and our cities do not have nearly enough autonomy.
Toronto is also facing a profound leadership deficit at the municipal level, to say the least (See Rob Ford). This cannot continue. Strong municipal leaders are critical to our sustained global economic competitiveness. It’s every global city for themselves and I, for one, want to win.
To give you an example of the dramatic rise of cities, take a look at this recent TechCrunch article on billion dollar startups. If you take a look at learning number 9, you’ll see an incredible interesting fact: San Francisco–not “the Valley”–is now home to the most billion dollar startups. Startups are eschewing the suburbs for the city.
I’ve written a lot on this trend, but I still don’t think that our governments have truly woken up to the fact that, in the new economy, our cities are our most important asset.