Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Tampa, Young Adults, and the Creative Class

In this little essay, I would like to review some major findings of a study titled "The Young and Restless" and present a few ideas regarding how we can make Tampa's creative class more competitive in a knowledge based economy.

The Creative TampaBay site has a study available online that assesses the views of 25-34 year olds regarding the city.

Creative TampaBay is in-tune with Richard Florida's ideas regarding the creative class and the future of a knowledge based economy. Therefore, they argue, it is important to attract educated 25-34 year olds to the city because it is during this period that these individuals will start a career and meet a mate (forminig roots) making it more likely that they will stay in that place for most of their adult life. The views expressed in Creative TampaBay's Young and Restless study are not encouraging regarding the present but are slightly encouraging regarding the potential of the future.

Out of the top 50 metropolitan areas, tampa is in the bottom 5 for educational attainment of the 25-34 year old group (25% with a 4 year degree) and and #47 in percent of population between 25-34 (12.7%). Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and Atlanta do much better than Tampa in almost every category regarding education and number of 25-34 year olds in the city or moving to the city and only Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and West Palm Beach-Boca Raton are ranked lower in percent of population between 25-34 among the largest 50 metro areas. Raleigh-Durham (45%), Atlanta (38%), Charlotte and Nashville (33%) boast a much higher proportion of college educated individuals compared to Tampa Bay's 25%. Furthermore, Tampa has only 0.022% of the total market share of college educated workers, while Atlanta ranks number 1 with 0.8%. Overall, Las Vegas and Austin, TX rank highest in almost every category concerning young adult growth (but Las Vegas ranks lowest in college education at 16% - however, it also had the greatest increase (101%) in college educated individuals between 1990 and 2000)

The 50 largest metropolitan areas account for 58% of the U.S. population, with 2.2 million residents of the Tampa Bay area (303,000 young adults between 25 and 34 years of age). The Tampa Bay area has 56,000 fewer young adults than it would have if it was in the middle of 50 largest metropolitan areas. THe population of young adults decreased across all of the US between 1990 and 2000 as the whole population aged. Slightly encouraging, the decline in population of young adults in the Tampa Bay area was less (-7.7%) than the national average (-8.3%), however, in absolute terms, the number declined from 328,000 to 303,000 25-34 year olds within the region and other Southern Regions, such as Atlanta and Raleigh Durham saw significant increases in their young adult populations during this period of over 20%. Overall population growth (16%) of the area was greater than the national average (14%) between 1990 adn 2000 but did not come close to other Southern metropolitan areas such as Atlanta (39%), Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (39%), Charlotte (29%), Nashville (25%), and Jacksonville (21%).

Richard Florida also writes that increased tolerance is a key ingredient to attracting and competing for the creative class. One measure of tolerance is diversity, however, Tampa also ranks low in diversity with 80% of the 25-34 year olds labeled as "white" (national average is 70%). However, between 1990 and 2000 the number of African-Americans increased by 7%, the number of Asian Americans increased by 68% and the number of Hispanics increased by 101%. Currently, other Southern regions are made up by a more diverse group of 25-34 year olds, including Atlanta (60% white), Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (67% white), H ouston (59%), New Orleans (58%), and Memphis (51%).

It isn't rocket science to figure out where our problems originate. First of all, you have to tolerate diversity to compete for the creative class. This does NOT just mean skin color and race - it means religious diversity, homosexual rights, tatoos, funny hair, and different styles of dress. While living in Ann Arbor, MI a few years back, a friend visiting from Tampa remarked to me how "everyone here looks like a scene kid" - what he was really saying was that a lot more people feel open to express themselves as individuals even while carrying $50K+ per year salaries. In addition, this area is not very inviting to outsiders - there is a strong good ole boy (and girl) network within the state and county (Palma Ceia CC, the Yacht Club, etc0 that still drives politics and change. If Tampa wants to attract innovative young minds and keep innovative young minds in the region, we have to allow INNOVATION and creativity. There needs to be a systamatic change in the way young people are treated in this region and a renewed respect for individuals with job titles and job training reflective of an oncoming knowledge economy driven by the creative class. Job titles are going to change drastically and what we do in our work is shifting as well - many of us produce and manage ideas now and it takes understanding from the community to allow room for these individuals and changes to take place. While I love living in a real city (Tampa) compared to Ann Arbor-Detroit, I must admit it was always easier to explain myself to the average person up north than it is here.
Next, as the Creative TampaBay report notes, we HAVE to improve downtown. While it is nice that the new Tampa Museum of Art is going to go into the existing old federal courthouse, we have to see the failures of this as well. Iorio's riverwalk plans were significant in that they allowed non-luxury, non-residential development to take place in an area overly focused on high-income POTENTIAL residents. We are setting ourselves up for another bust if we continue to push residential property growth without the necessary infrastructure and cultural resources there to support an influx of residents. If you have enough money to spend on a $300,000 plus condo in downtown you might also have enough disposable income to spend at coffee shops, movies, plays, shopping, etc - we have to ensure that those resources are in place in order to ensure that residents really do move in to these new homes. In other words, I feel that downtown must be developed but we can't simply force the issue by encouraging developers to make realestate investment (this is only part of the puzzle). We have to first change our approach and perspective on the creative class, then increase the resources for those individuals while also developing places to live and 'take root' as well.
This leads to my next point - we must focus the real estate development past the direct downtown area into places like Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights. There are existing beautiful neighborhoods within those regions that could be improved upon by focused efforts that have started and stalled on a number of occassions. However, we can't simply commit a blind gentrification. The creative class is sensitive to the residents of these areas who have owned and lived in their homes for many decades. It is NOT appropriate to force these residents to sell their home because the low price they would receive before redevelopment is unlikely to cover the price of a new home in another location. A similar tactic was undertaken, contrversially, by the former Mayor Dick Greco in the late 1990s and can not be tolerated in 2005.
Finally, the city must brand and market itself with greater exuberance. We need to specifically identify potential young adult migrants and migrant populations from national college areas and other metros with a high influx new residents (such as NYC). The image of Florida among many young adults in the North is of a backwards and socially unprogressive area, unwelcoming to new ideas and new people. What are we going to do in order to drive Tampa into the next phase of the knowledge based economy?


Rachel* said...

No sh*t. I say this all the time, and people think I'm nuts.

Anonymous said...

A lot of that is true..but there are some of already here..I'm not trying to spam. Check out http://www.jobsitetheater.org - March of The Kitefliers was written by two Seminole Heights residents.