The Creative Class- trail is a vital asset for attracting and retaining the workforce of the new creative economy.
What is driving the growth of the nation’s most successful communities today?
According to Richard Florida, a Carnegie Mellon Economics Professor who recently participated in Lexington’s IdeaFestival, the driving force behind the nation’s dynamic growth is the role of creativity in our economy and society. No longer driven by traditional trade routes or smokestack industries, the U.S. economy is now being fueled by a constant process of invention and innovation. The ‘Information’ or ‘Knowledge’ based economy in which we now live and work is growing and changing constantly due to the dynamic influence of a category of people whom Florida calls the ‘Creative Class’. This creative sector of the population has grown dramatically over the last few decades to where it currently accounts for over 30% of the work force. Most important, however, it the fact that this category of creative professionals is now responsible for the vast majority of growth in the U.S. economy. The highly educated and highly skilled individuals whom Florida defines as the ‘Creative Class’ are professionals in core areas of Science, Engineering, Architecture, Design, Education, Arts, and Entertainment, and in the supporting fields of Business, Finance, Law, Health Care, and Management. It naturally follows that the places experiencing the greatest economic growth in the nation are communities with a high concentration of this ‘Creative Class’. What is surprising, however, is that this ‘Creative Class’ is not staying in the traditionally largest or most populous locations. It is migrating to areas of the country where the quality of life is highest. These are locations that have strong educational institutions, ample outdoor or recreational amenities, and vibrant arts and cultural venues. These are places that are open, diverse, and tolerant of a variety of religions, cultures, and ethnicities.
Why does this relate to Town Branch Trail?
Because the creative individuals that Lexington wants to attract and retain for its economic and cultural prosperity are people who use trails. Florida describes in his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, how over the last 40 years the demand for physical exercise has grown enormously for individuals who use their minds for a living. There is a close correlation between trail users and creative professionals. Data compiled by the Iowa Department of Transportation reflects that trail users are on average more educated and have higher incomes than average Americans. A brief survey of the most dynamic communities in the nation will show that greenway trails are an essential ingredient in making these new centers of prosperity attractive to the ‘Creative Class’ responsible for their success.
How does Lexington rate as a creative city?
For metropolitan areas of between 500,000 and 250,000 people, Lexington ranks #9 out of a listing of 63. For more information go to www.creativeclass.org and http://www.dot.state.ia.us/trails/.