Don't worry about following the money, the new economics says. If you have the guts and smarts to get creative, the money will follow.
The midsummer night's dream of a revisioned local economy got a late-July kickoff with the release of Imagine A Toronto Strategies For A Creative City, produced by a government-funded team headed by Meric Gertler, a University of Toronto geographer and planner who specializes in business innovation.
The report is fashionably late - it comes four years after Richard Florida's Rise Of The Creative Class hit the bestsellers list - but it's full of stellar recommendations, though I do have complaints.
Forget about luring mines, sawmills, foundries, factories, ports, warehouse districts or head offices, the Gertler study suggests. All the companies that used to give cities their Bright Lights, Big Smoke power to bring in good and steady jobs and tax dollars have gone elsewhere.
Give up on finding replacements like convention centres, aquariums, shopping malls with water slides and Ferris wheels and other tourist traps with dweeb appeal.
Instead, according to this report, Toronto gets to strut its stuff as a low-cost but world-leading centre of moviemaking, theatre, music, graphic design, publishing, new media, biomedical research and higher education, as well as workaday specialty manufacturing in food, textiles, cars and airplanes.
This is the low-pollution motor of job creation for over 980,000 well-paid workers, well over a third of the Greater Toronto Area's labour force, and the centre-piece of any strategy to create a core of no-collar but cool jobs.
To put the matter in perspective, we mostly read about creatives in history book chapters dealing with scientists and philosophers burned at the stake, famous artists and inventors who starved in obscurity during their lifetime or creatives without a cause who lost their minds to booze and drugs.
But now they are our commerce boosters. The way modern product life cycles work, the next new thing - be it an iPod or gardening Crocs - goes from must-have to discounted knockoff in such a New York minute that those without a creative lead get the hindmost. The market is ruthless for those who come late to innovation.
Gertler's report is in the right groove, with recommendations on the need to protect low-rent districts where struggling creatives live, and on the "urgent need" to release the creativity of highly talented immigrants, whose exclusion from the good jobs indicates the power of establishment interest groups who can use arbitrary rules ("Canadian experience") to keep out competitors.
Gertler also notes the lack of "a strategic linked-up approach to developing" creative capacity. Compare that to the regulatory hand-holding and mega-million giveaways siphoned off by the "creatives" behind nuclear power or genetic engineering.
To my way of thinking, there are two disappointments in Gertler's presentation. One is that, in stark contrast with U.S knowledge economy guru Peter Drucker and Canadian economic analyst Herschel Hardin (author of A Nation Unaware, of which most Canadians are unaware), Gertler overlooks both government agencies and non-governmental organizations as crucial sources of creativity.
Think CBC, TVO, the Science Centre, the U.S. Depression-era Public Works Administration, Pierre Trudeau's Local Initiatives Program and Opportunities for Youth, FoodShare, universities, unions, co-ops and a long list of other public agencies. It's not creative to limit creativity to the for-profit or arts sector.
Though Gertler is one of the most food-savvy planners I know, he follows the highbrow tried-and-untrue by saying little about food, the centre of the largest manufacturing and service industries in Toronto and elsewhere. Food has been joined at the hip with the creative intelligentsia at least since the European coffee house radicals of the Age of Discovery.
Food does triple duty to add snap, crackle and pop to a creative economy. Pubs, restaurants and cafés are the home away from home of creatives, who rarely work alone or without mixing work and sociability.
Food hangouts are also the work away from work for artists, actors, writers, students and others who feed their creative habit by joining the food sector's casual labour force. Food is the first business in for entrepreneurial start-ups in the Little Indias and Chinatowns of diverse cities, and of northern Italy's famous family- and co-op-based economic revival.
Farmers markets, food vendors and outdoor café and bar strips give a city the street smarts, slow charm and on-demand public access that creatives demand (another paradox of slow and cool 24/7 creative lifestyles).
Participants in such local foodways need their version of what permitted Canadian writers, musicians and performers to come into their own when some baseline of Canadian content on the airwaves was guaranteed after the 1970s.
Whether it's called called late or latte capitalism, a rising class now carries the means of production in its head, with a cheap laptop as its chief tool and a vibrant community as its living space. Economics that thinks outside the box store has become a planning imperative though the policies and politics (both square and swear words for creatives) around this still need to be mapped.
It's quite the spectre to be haunting the old-time power elite.