Thomas Friedman makes a bajillion dollars telling us the world is flat. That technology and globalization means that anything can be done anywhere. Richard the-rock-star Florida comes along and says, wait, Friedman is wrong. The world isn’t flat. In fact, according to Florida place matters more than ever. He says that innovation and creativity and even economic growth is concentrating in these urban hubs even faster than it was before.
Who’s right? Who knows? They both make lots of bucks serving up reams of realistic data to prove their points.
Truth is their are both right – to a point. Friedman is right about the infrastructure being in place for economic growth to happen almost anywhere but Florida is right in that people are more mobile than ever (Canada is a great example) and will move freely to get where they feel they are better off.
The reality is we have our own little metaphorical Friedman/Florida stand off right here in Canada. In one of the first speeches I ever heard Jean Cretien make back in the mid 1990s, he said that the Internet and technology would level the playing field in Canada. That knowledge economy jobs could spring up anywhere. And then we proceeded to see the greatest decade of urbanization (particularly into Toronto-Vancouver-Calgary-Edmonton) in Canadian history. Cretien was playing the role of Friedman (flatness) but Florida’s thesis won the day.
But all is not lost. I have talked to literally dozens of folks that have willingly moved here in the past year or so from other parts of Canada and were glad to do it. More and more people are looking for a better work-life balance that is harder to find in the large urban areas unless you are rich enough to buy it.
That just might be our niche going forward. It might just be what brings us back from population decline and back into the plus column. But it is all predicated on having the economic opportunity here that will attract people because they won’t come for $9/hour. Maslow had that part right. Economic matters come first.