Who’s Your Town?

Richard Florida may be coming out with Who’s Your City? but some of us prefer towns. I know that Florida is positive on the potential for small towns, as this comment in the Telegraph Journal shows;

But Florida told reporters at a reception after his speech that it’s not just big cities that are creative. He said people in big cities are looking to get away to “cosmopolitan country towns” like Sackville.

“There’s a study in the United States that shows that certain rural areas actually have higher levels of creative economy than urban centres like Manhattan,” he said, sipping a glass of red wine.

“My students in Toronto” are complaining about the erosion of natural amenities in Toronto: no parks, no place to get to the water, it takes four hours to drive to the lake. People are looking for places that they can go and work and chill,” he said. “What I see here is a place that’s at the cutting edge. It has a fabulous university that’s top-class. It has great natural amenities and has, for its size, outstanding cultural amenities.”

Being a small town means that you don’t have to be attractive to thousands of “creatives”. A few people can make a big difference in a small town. I just read that Hugh MacLeod, of GapingVoid fame, is considering Alpine, Texas (pop. 6,000) as his home base in the US:

5. It’s not official, and I’m just going to play it by ear, but I’m thinking of making Alpine my permanent US base. A lot depends on how many gigs I get this side of the Atlantic in 2008.

6. If I ever end up living permanently in the US again, it’ll be here. Nowhere else.

The best marketing strategy for small towns who don’t want to be left out of the creative economy is to have one-on-one conversations with potential residents. Everyone is miscellaneous and everyone wants to be special, so a broad-based marketing campaign just won’t work. It will take individual relationships and the right circumstances on a case by case basis. On top of that, each newcomer could have a significant impact on the town, so the rules change with each addition. Imagine getting Peter Jackson to move to your town. One person has the potential to create a social and economic tipping point.

Update: Hugh goes on in a subsequent post to show the key to success for small towns:

10. Though this part of the world went into economic decline after the World War Two [like every other ranching culture in North America], I can already see it coming back, I can already seeing green shoots springing up. Sick and burned out of big-city life, people are starting to move to places like here, more and more. And they’re bringing what they learned in the big city and applying it to a place more suited to their individual needs. Hence the trattoria’s, the microbreweries, the coffee roasters, the art galleries and yes, the internet cartoonists turning up. And the internet and the global microbrand make all this even more viable, even more exciting. Alpine, Texas is no longer in the middle of nowhere; Alpine, Texas is in the middle of EVERYWHERE, if it wants to be. Rock on.

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