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Monday, February 18, 2008

Florida Watch: News from Pittsburgh's Favorite Ex-Pat

Posted By on Mon, Feb 18, 2008 at 10:22 AM

City Paper prides itself on keeping Pittsburgh informed about the doings of Richard Florida, the former Carnegie Mellon University academic who coined the phrase "creative class" to describe knowledge workers and others. You may recall that a few years back, Florida left Pittsburgh to go teach college down in northern Virginia, where they better appreciated his unorthodox approach to talent attraction. (Or at least they offered him enough money to attract his own talents.)

What's he been up to since?

I'm happy to report that he has a new book coming out. Following up on the landmark success of The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class, Florida has penned a third volume: The Creative Class III: Revenge of the Sith.

OK, not really. The book is actually called Who's Your City? And according to the PR pitch I received this weekend, it's all about -- surprise! -- attracting talent. As the press release explains:

It's a mantra of the age of globalization that where you live doesn't matter: you can telecommute to your high-tech Silicon Valley job, a ski-slope in Idaho, a beach in Hawaii or a loft in Chicago; you can innovate from Shanghai or Bangalore.

According to international best-selling author, Richard Florida, this is wrong. Place is not only important, it's more important than ever. Globalization is not flattening the world; in fact, place is increasingly relevant to the global economy and our individual lives. … And everything we think we know about cities and their economic roles is up for grabs.

You'll also be heartened to hear that the book will feature "first-ever rankings of cities by life-stage, rating the best places for singles, young families and empty-nesters." So when the book hits the stands, it's guaranteed a "how do we match up?" newspaper article just about everywhere books are sold.

Note, however, the somewhat dismissive reference to The World is Flat, by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. Maybe you think Florida is punching above his weight by taking on a big gun like Friedman. But as it turns out, Florida now has a columnist in the family too. So there.

How do I know? After hearing about Florida's new book, I got curious as to how our boy was doing. So I checked out the Web site of his Creative Class Group. (In case you were wondering, the CCG, as I like to call it, is a team of "next-generation thinkers and strategists" who offer "leading-edge knowledge … professional development worldwide." So the world's at least flat enough for purposes of a consulting gig.) And after flipping around through the site a bit, I have to say the question "Who's Your City?" was a lot less interesting to me than "Who's Your Daddy?"

I mean, check out the members of Florida's "Creative Class" team ... each one prettier, and sporting more exquisitely carved cheekbones, than the last. And that's just the guys!

But brace yourselves, ladies: Florida himself has gotten married; his wife is Rana Florida the CCG's CEO. The publicist who sent out word of this new book, Reham Alexander, is Rana Florida's sister. (Globalization aside, it really IS a small world after all!) And as it turns out Ms. Florida and Ms. Alexander write a newspaper advice column called "The Lowdown," which they pen with their sisters Leena and Ruba.

Judging from "the Lowdown" Website the column offers "four opposing viewpoints from the smart-talking Gen X sisters," and has "created quite a buzz, generating questions from an equal number of male and female, young an old."

I haven't actually read the column, but by browsing its Web site, I can tell you that I would follow almost any instruction the Kozouz sisters -- as the column's four authors refer to themselves -- gave me. Ruba is a part-time model, for example, while Ms. Florida herself apparently possesses a "high spirit and sense of adventure" that have her roller-blading and skydiving her way across the globe. What's more, her "cut to the chase attitude and philosophy on life is reflected in her advice which is straight and direct, firmly stating who is right or wrong."

And yet, something puzzles me. Florida's book apparently disputess the idea that it doesn't matter where you live. Yet his team apparently lives by the "mantra" that his book sets out to disparage. Florida now teaches in Toronto, but lives with his wife in Washington D.C. When his wife isn't traipsing off on safari or visiting the Dead Sea, she and her sister, who lives in Michigan, write a column that appears in the U.S. and Canada. And while the team's members do seem to be clustered in Washington D.C. and Michigan, one of them lives in Sydney, Australia. So is the earth flat or not?

Ordinarily, I'd hire an expensive consultant to help me figure that out. But if you want to get advice and counsel from a member of the Kozouz family, it seems, there's a cheaper way.

To wit …

Dear Lowdown,

I had a whirlwind romance with a great guy -- handsome, smart, and almost too hip for words. But eventually he left because, he said, I didn't appreciate him or his talents enough. I thought I was over him at first … but I've just discovered that he's found a woman, and a life, that provide excitement I could never match. Is there any way I can get him back? Or at least to stop grieving over his loss?

Sign me,

Heartbroken in Pittsburgh

If the Kozouz sisters have any advice for us, we'll pass it along to you ... and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

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