Natural amenities, “the creative class” and economic success

This map got my attention because of the disproportionate amount of “green” in the rural intermountain west.  In this case it means counties have a disproportionately high number of employees in jobs like management, finance, technology, engineering, science, sales, entertainment and non-primary education (and of course lawyering).

“The creative-class thesis holds that communities that attract and retain more workers who are in creative occupations will fare better in today’s economy.” 

From the background paper linked to this article:

“Richard Florida’s Rise of the Creative Class makes a compelling argument that urban development now depends on novel combinations of knowledge and ideas, that certain occupations specialize in this task, that people in these occupations are drawn to areas providing a high quality of life, and that the essential development strategy is to create an environment that attracts and retains these workers. While developed with urban areas in mind, this thesis may be particularly relevant in rural areas, which lose much of their young talent as high school graduates leave for college, the armed forces, or “city lights.”  Our analysis of recent development in rural U.S. counties, which focuses on natural amenities (for which ERS has also computed county-level scores) as quality-of-life indicators, supports the creative class thesis.”

So, perceived natural amenities attract creative workers who improve local economies.  With a caveat that “growth and success among creative-class workers doesn’t necessarily extend economic benefits to other parts of the economy, such as blue-collar and service workers, at least in metro areas.”  (All wages go up, but housing costs go up more.)

So maybe all this is saying is to get the right kind of education so you can do well and live in a nice place, but it might also paint a promising picture for these rural “green” counties.


7 thoughts on “Natural amenities, “the creative class” and economic success”

  1. Jon, I thought a couple of things were interesting about this.. it seems to be based on weather patterns.

    I used to live in Oregon and go to various other parts of it for work, and for me the greener parts don’t really have more “amenities.” I guess to each his or her own.

    It also seems odd that south Florida is so green compared to the rest of the US. Seems like it can be oppressively hot and humid in the summer, as the Lake States can be snowy and cold in the winter.

    • Indeed, the views from Highway 97 are always outstanding. When you live in a rainshadow, you appreciate the fewer green spots even more. You also appreciate the freedom to walk without the hindrance of a smorgasboard of brush species, found on the “green” side. Aside from the Oregon Coast’s incredible sunsets, you consistently get the best vivid skies over the Cascades every night.

  2. “it seems to be based on weather patterns.”

    I doubt it. Around these parts, I recognize mostly counties containing colleges/universities and national labs: Moscow ID (my hometown, Univ. of Idaho), Pullman WA (WSU), Spokane (Gonzaga, WSU, more), Coeur d’Alene (NIC, UI), Tri-Cities WA (Hanford nuclear reservation), Pocatello ID (ISU), Boise ID (BSU), Idaho Falls ID (INEL), Missoula MT (UM), Bozeman MT (MSU), Bend OR (Central Oregon U), Ellensburg WA (Central WA U) plus some tourist spots (Newport OR, Sandpoint ID, Jackson WY). That doesn’t explain all of them, but many of these aren’t big towns, and a few professors, engineers, vacationers may have a disproportionate effect.

    • I saw that the underlying study of amenities was mostly climate/geography based, which is why I added the term “perceived” amenities. But these ‘green’ counties were based on employment (the role of amenities was speculative).

      I think the nature of amenities is different from the point that amenities tend to be good for the economy. Amenities could include wilderness, local land-use choices or colleges. They probably don’t include mines (although some of these counties have them). And perceived amenities could be a factor in where these kinds of people choose to live.

  3. Yes, unless there are minerals in those Green Belts. Coronado is permitting a mine that will destroy a green belt where a lot of creative people (bed and breakfast), grape vineyards (winery) have set up a tourist zone. By the Forest Service’s own count it will be 250,000 plus trees that will be hacked down to be sold as scrap. I counted (from an oatho-photo map) that some 30,000 of them are 100 plus years old Oaks, mostly Emory, a scattering of White Oaks.

  4. This creative-class stuff just kills me. It would be nice if all these “creatives” would join us, yet let us peasants keep on cutting and digging so the economy can support all those creative wages. The wealth and salaries paid have to be based on something of tangible value at the bottom of the tree — you know, 17 trillion in the hole plus the 80 plus trillion in unfunded liabilities that will have to be reconciled at some point?
    Another point that gets my goat. I work around unedumacated peasant loggers and aggies all the time. I’ve run heavy equipment enough to know I’m not good at it, at least not yet. Tell me, all you creatives, could you play with 20 tons of smelly steel, operating efficiently in three dimensions simultaneously over the fourth (time) and then, out think the verdammt engineers when the dang thing snaps something off on the side of a mountain? Or even change the oil, parked in a nice shop full of tools? Creative enough?
    Could you even take a saw and dump one tree without killing yourself?. Trust me, it DOE take some brains, forethought and complex reasoning skills. Not so much in words, but it’s physics without the equations. A little humility, please.

  5. Much of our creativity was put on hold by the Northwest Forest plan when we no longer were allowed access to a resource we could be creative with, like a dead cedar tree laying along side the road. The Forest Service will sell it to you for 20 dollars to make firewood out of it and firewood only. But, we are not allow to be creative and pay more for the tree and then create something out of it. They will sell you a 10 million bft. thinning sale of small diameter trees.
    “Oh, you don’t have a multi -million dollars automated mill to make 2 x 4’s and 2 x 6’s, and a million dollars to operate the sale? Guess you are out of luck. Move the city and be creative would you. But wait, maybe you’d like to start a mine, or better yet maybe you like to put in in a pipeline?”


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