For knowledge workers, where you live is not where you work

From NineShift is this interesting statistic:

Corporate offices in New York City grew to 602 last year from 274 in 1990. But while the head office is moving to New York, the average number of jobs in those head offices declined to 78 from 127. All the other employees are staying in cheaper locations. The NineShift lesson for today folks: business relocation in this century does not mean job relocation. Just like the CEO is moving to his/her favorite city today, more knowledge workers will relocate wherever they please. Disconnecting the job from the business location-wise.

Combine this with the other statistics I recently noted, that show how young people first want to choose where they will live, and then decide what kind of work they want to do and for whom. Location is still very important; just for different reasons.

As I develop the business plan for our Commons, I have this strong feeling that if we can make our community an attractive place to live and work then the economic development will follow. This is not a traditional strategy, particularly in the Maritimes, where our politicians are usually chasing larger companies to locate a plant or branch office here. I’m focused on people, not companies.

A key difference in a knowledge economy is that the workers truly own the means of production. Low cost tools, such as computers and other hardware, make the barriers to entry into the knowledge economy relatively low. Low cost hardware has been the prime reason for our recent economic growth, according to Mark Cuban:

It’s not the net, it’s the applications stupid !

Falling costs to create, host and deliver digital bits enable entrepreneurs to be entrepreneurial. Kids can save enough money these days to buy a computer and create applications their friends can use and maybe even buy year round for less than they can buy a decent lawnmower to mow lawns with only in the summer.

Our Commons will comprise a work commons, like the Queen Street Commons, but will also be open to non-profits in the environmental and cultural sectors. These are two areas that are of great interest, and passion, for many educated younger people. They are also the strengths of our community. I think that this combination of entrepreneurial work commons, combined with an active social sector, will help us to attract a critical mass of people. We have additional challenges, compared to larger centres, in growing our knowledge sector in Sackville (pop. ±5,000). My aim is to be a choice living destination for a few dozen more creative people, and I’m sure that we can do that.

The business plan development for the Commons is moving forward, and I hope to be able to post a summary of our business model here shortly. That should be followed with the announcement of a location, but these things always take longer than anticipated.

2 Responses to “For knowledge workers, where you live is not where you work”

  1. Dave Lee

    Harold, if you aren’t familiar with Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class you should check it out. He is an economist at Carnegie Mellon who has documented the shift (in the US for the most part) to people focusing on where they live and industry and venture capital having to follow them. This is a shift in the dominant paradigm of most of the Industrial Age in which hundreds of thousands of people would pick up and move in order to find new or better work.

  2. Harold

    Thanks, Dave. Yes, I’m familiar with Florida’s work, but didn’t want to bring in too many viewpoints to one blog post. I guess the BIG question is what will happen in the next 20 years. Will there be a mass movement of people, or will there be a only a few creative communities that will garner the most attention and the most immigrants? Is it even feasible for a small town to think that it can attract members of this new creative class? Who knows …


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