It takes right stuff to draw young, hip creative industry workers
By April M. Havens
Creative workers and knowledge-based business employees want a clean, hip urban environment to live, work and play in, they say.
In describing herself and her creative colleagues, Lorraine Santiago, a Web site content editor for Media 8, said with each new job filled it seems like the workers get younger and younger.
"They have to be young in order to have fresh ideas, and that's what we're looking for," she said. "We're looking for those points of view. We want employees who are very detail oriented and who get ideas from very little details, where they can see one little thing and get a tag line from it."
Dana Frenety, Beacon Council vice president and special assistant to the president, said he doesn't "think it's an age thing" but rather "an interest and talent thing. There are some very talented people on both ends of the age spectrum that will define and ensure the growth of the industry."
The creative economy, Ms. Santiago said, is built on quick-thinking and active people who are passionate for their industries and also a little perfectionistic. They are generally a little more laid back in both manner and dress, she said, but some upper-level management workers still "keep on their pantyhose, heels and jackets."
The benefit of growing a creative business in Miami is its diverse demographic because "you can always find your target," Ms. Santiago said. But the challenges she cited are weak public transportation, high rents and cost of living, and too few outdoor and cultural events.
"Honestly, how good is a train that won't go to the international airport?" she said. "Young people come from all over the country to take jobs here and they have to start from zero, absolutely nothing. They need a reliable public transportation system."
Stephen Siegel, vice chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's Creative Industries Committee, agrees.
"Developing the creative economy involves many attractive creative economy workers and that means developing an environment that is attractive to them — transportation, housing, networking, education, as well as arts and culture," he wrote in an e-mail.
Last July, Mr. Siegel said developing green space in the city would also foster the lifestyle that attracts creative workers.
Ms. Santiago said more green space near her job in the Design District would make her entire office happy. "My bosses are big believers in that we work hard but we play harder," she said, noting they like to organize outdoors office parties and picnics for their employees.
Miami's ethnic and racial diversity is a strength, observers say.
Johnny Maldonado, president of Miami-based marketing firm CANSAC, said last summer that Miami's diverse culture helps his company produce better results. Having workers from different cultural backgrounds, he said, helps keep original ideas flowing.
That benefit can also be the biggest challenge, though. Mr. Maldonado said sometimes cultural barriers and separations spring up and hinder the creative process, but usually they do not become major problems within his company.
Elizabeth Wentworth, vice president of the Broward Alliance's Creative Economy & Film Commission, says South Florida must team up to create a region where creative workers want to work and live.
"We have a very unique area for the development of a creative economy," she said. "We have both lifestyle and ethnic diversity, but we need everyone at the table to solve the problems South Florida has, like transportation and environment," added Ms. Wentworth, whose agency serves as Broward's economic development arm..
"But to solve these problems we need to pool our diverse population to get each culture's viewpoint and way of thinking. It'll take the most creative and original ideas to build an environment the creative class will want to live in."
Author Richard Florida's 2002 book The Rise of the Creative Class explained that the creative class creates new ideas, technologies and content. The demographic, usually younger, is creative, diverse and values individuality.
His book ranked Miami-Fort Lauderdale 99th in the US for concentration of creative-class workers. The top five locations, according to Mr. Florida, were Washington, DC; Raleigh-Durham, NC; Boston; Austin, TX, and San Francisco.
CreativeTampaBay, an organization created as a catalyst for the creative economy and developing creative industry in the region, conducted a study in 2005 titled "The Young and the Restless." The study identified the gold standard for creative-class workers as the 25-34 age bracket. It examined what young adults look for in a city, and if that something could be summed up in one word, it would indeed be "cool," CreativeTampaBay said on its Web site in detailing the study.
"They look for tolerance of different religions, races, sexual orientation, even tattoos; an openness toward new ideas; diversity; an environment in which they can be themselves; vibrancy and a wide range of leisure activities such as restaurants and arts; and inexpensive living conditions," the study said.
The 25- to 34-year-old group represents workers who are at the peak of their mobility — without a mortgage, probably unmarried — and more likely to move across state lines than at any other time in their lives, the study said. Between their 25th and 35th birthdays they will start careers, find mates, start families and put down roots, the study says, concluding that it is essential to attract them before these things happen, because once they put down roots, they are unlikely to move.