One can't help but wonder about the power we could wield if the Fast 50 winners (March) worked together. Consider housing. The construction of one large housing development produces the same 18,000 tons of CO2 that the Dave Matthews Band has produced in its 15 years of touring. If developers like Mark Edlen (No. 17) work with innovators such as Italcementi (No. 32), we'd get that much closer to achieving the goals of Governor Schwarzenegger (No. 1) in reducing emissions.
I applaud Fast Company for bringing publicity to companies that are making strides toward a more sustainable future for our planet. I also tend to agree that it will take for-profit organizations, in concert with governments and nonprofits, for humanity to achieve its continuation. What you fail to note is that it is the human psyche—its fears, motivations, feelings, and beliefs—that got us to where we are today. Greed is the element that has wrought the most damage. To suggest that "greed is good," and that it will get us out of the predicament we find ourselves in, is downright irresponsible.
Andrew Zolli deftly points out that as people move up the economic ladder, they plunder more of the Earth's valuable resources. Entrepreneurs motivated to become "trillionaires" will do more harm than good. Greedy creatives and opportunists may come up with new profitable ways of doing things that are more sustainable. But real change will not occur until we are able to get beyond those basic human instincts that got us into trouble in the first place. What we truly need is a paradigm shift in our motivations. We must not be motivated by greed, as you suggest, but by the authentic desire to make things better for the generations that follow, regardless of the potential for financial gain.
David M. Carter
Challenge: Making business sound "fun" when preparing a keynote speech to a high school business workshop. Solution: Quote the governor of California from the cover of your March issue. Thank you, FC. Thank you, Terminator.
In your full interview with Governor Schwarzenegger at FastCompany.com, he says, "You can be the greatest painter, but if you don't know how to market your work and showcase it in the right frame and the right gallery, how successful can you be?" What an American comment. Winners and losers. Successful people and unsuccessful people. We are truly toddlers intellectually, as Europeans have commented time and time again. Perhaps the greatest painter's goal is not to be the most successful painter. And art metaphors should not be used to communicate business ideals.
I enjoyed "The View From Florida-ville" (March), about how communities around the United States are attempting to clone perceived trends that will make them more attractive to commerce. How did Detroit became the center of the automotive industry? What caused Wichita to be a mecca for aviation? Why did Silicon Valley soar above other information tech centers? Each of these communities became a hub for technologies that transformed the 20th century. Yet each was not the only place that sprouted these ideas, though they happened to be where they bloomed best.
Can futurists predict where nanotechnology will shine brightest? And what will they say are the community traits that caused it? There's more at work here than lattes, farmers' markets, and Wi-Fi hot spots.
Roanoke on the Edge
Dr. Florida understands generations X and Y in ways that Jamie Peck, whom you quoted criticizing him, does not. Florida knows what motivates young adults, and he uses sound research to back it up. It is no secret that many medium-size cities like Roanoke are bleeding young adults to more urban areas. This was especially acute during the 1990s. Roanoke's city manager addressed this important issue by creating a staff person to implement many of Florida's ideas.
As a result, Roanoke is beginning to see many signs of reaching the tipping point—increased participation by young adults in regional issues; programs and events that are receiving local, regional, and national coverage; and an online buzz that is giving hope to many young professionals who are looking for ways to return home, stay in the region after college, or discover the next hip city.
Florida's work has been instrumental in making second-tier cities like Roanoke destinations for young adults.
Richard Florida Responds
I wanted to comment on Andrew Park's article about the application by towns and cities of my research. Park writes, "There's scant evidence that Florida-esque creativity strategies have moved the needle on traditional economic-development gauges such as job and income growth." But my theory says it's not any individual policy measures that move the needle. What's important is a broad ecosystem that encourages open-mindedness and self-expression, harnesses and attracts talent, and generates new innovation and wealth. Urban economies are big, complex systems that take a long time to change and morph.
Park also writes, "That hasn't stopped cities from chasing the creative class as if it were a high-stakes, zero-sum game." I never advocate poaching the creative class. Really, it can't be done. Top human capital is becoming more divergent and concentrated. We tell communities to stop the zero-sum stuff. And we work with them to tap into the huge untapped reservoir of creativity that they already have.
Then Park avers, "The bigger problem with pursuing creativity strategies might be their potential to overshadow a city's more basic social, educational, and infrastructural needs." This is an old saw used by skeptics and squelchers. My survey work with the Gallup Organization shows that what we really want is not an either-or community: safe streets or great parks, great schools or great culture. Rather, people want the basics—safe streets, good schools, and the like—and more.
Park closes by writing, "No one can fault cities for trying to be more livable. The question is whether doing so will make them more prosperous—or just more 'hip.'" But livable communities are more prosperous. The people who live in them are also happier and more fulfilled. And that's what we should be striving for.
On the Waterfront
I have been a resident of urban Chicago since 2000 and believe that Michael Shvo's envy for the Second City's lakefront skyline is certainly justified ("Shvo Motion," March). I wish that he shared Chicago mayor Richard Daley's pledge to make the city the most environmentally friendly city in America. Chicago, a cradle of American architecture, was one of the first cities to adopt LEED, and it has the most LEED-registered projects of any city in the world. Celebrity real estate markets will all remain second cities to Chicago until developers realize environmental conviction trumps a singular preference for profit.
Resolved: Great Open Debate
Your conversation about whether
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Pictures Tell the Story
I enjoyed your page about Swivel ("Numbers…You're Swimming in Them," March). The graphics told the story well, and honestly, I don't think I would have understood half the data if it came at me in paragraph form!
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A version of this article appeared in the May 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.