A few weeks ago, Bill liveblogged from the second meeting of the International Regions Benchmarking Consortium that took place in Barcelona. Again, this is a group that was started two years ago by us and the TDA of Greater Seattle as a way to measure our economic performance against that of some of our peers around the world: specifically Barcelona, Stockholm, Helsinki, Munich, Dublin, Vancouver BC, Fukuoka (Japan), Daejon (S Korea), Cape Town and Glasgow.
As part of the conference – which had the theme of “Creativity and Talent in an Urban Environment” – we commissioned a report on talent attraction, the Creative Class approach being one of the most recent and highly touted. And let me just say, the report is awesome.
Really. I’m not saying that because we were involved. There is some serious insight in here that really moves the collective thinking along on this issue. Top of the list for me is the role of “amenities” in the context of other aspects of a region. What often gets lost in the Creative Class discussion is that amenities are one factor in a talent migration decision that also includes wages/job opportunities and housing and transportation costs. A high amenity area with low job prospects is a great place to retire; a place with a lot of job prospects and low quality of life is the new Boeing facility in South Carolina (zinger!).
The other important point, I think, is that different amenities appeal to different people, and so a truly successful talent attraction region has a variety of scenes. Some of those scenes involve cafes and theaters, some don’t. You can actually classify them into four types of amenities – natural environment, built environment, social environment and public & private services – and many people will not only desire a mix of scenes but actually spend time in multiple scenes in a given time period.
I’ve hyped the report enough that hopefully you’ll take a few moments to skim it through, but here are the summary points:
1. Migration is critical for future economic success (because more populated regions will tend to be more productive and have higher incomes than smaller regions, and with natural population growth near zero in much of the developed world, the only way to grow is to attract in-migrants. Also a highly productive region requires a highly educated workforce, and no region has the capacity to provide enough educated people.)
2. Economic opportunity takes precedence over lifestyle (Although lifestyle considerations and consumption values are becoming increasingly important, productivity and job growth are necessary for overall economic growth. In other words, simply enhancing the quality of life of a region will not, by itself, contribute to economic or population growth beyond an increase in resident retirees.)
3. Competition for talent is waged among high productivity regions
4. “Superstar” regions have both high productivity and high quality of life
5. Migration decisions have a push and a pull component (Individual decisions to migrate to a new region are the result of both a push and a pull. Before deciding where to move, people need a compelling reason to leave the region where they currently live and a compelling reason to go to the new place. Thus, the most likely way to recruit talent will be to target regions that have weak employment opportunities and/or unattractive lifestyle options.)
6. Households trade off housing costs and commute times against wages and amenities
7. Amenities can be packaged into “scenes” that appeal to specific demographic groups