Richard Florida at NJ Planning Conference

Post date: Apr 12, 2012 10:02:48 PM

I never fail to learn something from Richard Florida, so it was terrific hearing his presentation as keynote speaker at PlanSmartNJ’s planning conference in Trenton this week. As a “Jersey boy,” Florida was able to connect with his audience on multiple levels.

Much of the presentation would be familiar to those of you have read his books and follow him online. He spent some time explaining his thesis that the current economic slump will be usher in a “great reset,” realigning us toward the “creative economy,” with all the social changes that involves. This thesis resonates well in New Jersey, which has shown a dramatic change from a blue-collar manufacturing economy to a white-collar knowledge-based economy.

Some of Florida’s points that I thought most noteworthy:

· Don’t think about quality of life, think about “quality of place,” which includes all the natural and built stuff on the ground. Invest in parks and schools!

· Corporations don’t grow the economy – cities do.

· Don’t be concerned just about the business climate, be concerned about the people climate.

· The most open-minded, diverse, tolerant communities are also the most prosperous.

Incidentally, central New Jersey, where we were (Trenton, Princeton, Ewing), scores very well on all of Florida’s metrics.

I won’t summarize the whole conference, but it’s worth listing a few nuggets that give hope for a better smart growth future:

· New Jersey has a new state plan under development, which, while very different from the last one, is still very focused on smart growth opportunities.

· New Jersey continues to be strong in health care and biotech, and these industries gravitate toward places with strong knowledge bases, good quality of life, and great connectivity (including transit).

· Urban manufacturing is an underappreciated asset and continues to grow in certain niche segments, with small, decentralized, more sophisticated enterprises.

· Goods movement trends in the region show signs of increasing “onshoring” of manufacturing and increasing emphasis on rail.

· The transit sector continues to move forward despite the economy, with new light rail lines and extensions in planning and new transit-oriented developments.

Plenty of food for thought! Thanks to PlanSmartNJ for a great meeting.