Richard Florida, the “Creative Class” guru who has long been admired by Gov. John Hickenlooper and others, has created an economic rating system that ranks Boulder and Denver in the nation’s top 20 cities as being economically advantaged.
Boulder ranked No. 8 and the Denver-Aurora area was 17th, on the new index, which examined 360 metropolitan statistical areas across the country.
Of the top 20, 15 of them were on either the West or East coasts. In other words, Colorado claimed two of the five spots between the coasts.
Florida, a senior editor at The Atlantic and director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, as well as the founder of hte Creative Class Group, ranked the MSAs on three measures of regional productivity and wealth: median household income, per capita income and average wages and salaries. Washington, D.C. and Silicon Valley topped the list.
Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. and Executive Vice President of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said not everyone is a fan of Florida’s and plenty of people have taken shots at him over the years.
But he seems to be on target when it comes to the Boulder-Denver area, especially in light of current and prospective economic development coups, he said.
For example, Clark, Hickenlooper and others recently launched an effort to bring a futuristic “spaceport” to the area, probably at the Front Range Airport in Adams County. General Electric this year announced plans for a cutting-edge solar manufacturing facility in Aurora and Arrow Electronics moved its world headquarters to the Denver area.
“I will tell you that one thing we watch are art and technology coming together,” Clark said. “By this I mean things that we once only dreamed about, which seemed like science fiction, are coming true. The mix of creativity and intellectual power are powerful combinations.”
Florida, in an Atlantic Cites Place Matters article titled, U.S. Metros That Can Most Afford to Buy Gifts This Year,” said that metro areas that rank high on the Economic Advantage Index share a number of traits.
They tend to have “more highly educated and more highly skilled populations – or what economists refer to as higher levels of human capital…The same is true of metros with a larger share of knowledge-based, professional and creative jobs.”
He goes on to say that metro economic advantage is associated with the concentration of high-tech industry, a high level of technological innovation measured by patents per capita. Also, MSAs that rank highly on the index have “higher levels of openness and diversity – whether in terms of the share of new immigrants or of gays and lesbians. More economically advantaged metros, not surprisingly, are also happier.”
Clark noted that he predicted that 2011 would be better than 2010 for the Front Range economy, and he expects 2012 to be another good year, with 50,000 new jobs coming to the area.
Some of the most prized jobs will be found in business “clusters” that his group has targeted for the past nine years, such as aerospace and clean energy.
“Our goal is to make the Denver area the most economically diverse area of the country,” Clark said. “2012 is going to be another solid year. It will be really solid, but not great.”
However, while the Denver-area housing market will benefit a bit from jobs coming to the metro area, Clark predicted the local housing market will not shoot the lights out next year.
“Housing is not going to really stage a comeback until 2013 and 2014,” Clark said. “The problem is we have a whole generation coming up that does not see houses as a wealth-building asset. They’ve seen what has happened in recent years, so that is a completely foreign concept to them. They are going to be more slow to buy real estate than previous generations. But their parents will help them buy homes and they will start to come around. We have to work on that.”
Rank Metro Area Economic Advantage Index
1 Washington, D.C., Arlington, Alexamdria 0.995
2 San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara 0.994
3 Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk 0.993
4 San Francisco, Oakland, Fremont 0.991
5 Boston, Cambridge, Quincy 0.981
6 Trenton, Ewing 0.981
7 Anchorage 0.973
8 BOULDER 0.969
9 New York, Northern New Jersey, Long Island 0.965
10 Hartford, West Hartford, East Hartford 0.964
11 Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue 0.962
12 Baltimore, Towson 0.96
13 Napa 0.956
14 Manchester-Nashua, NH 0.951
15 Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Ventura 0.948
16 New Haven, Milford 0.947
17 DENVER-AURORA 0.933
18 New Haven-Milford 0.932
19 Rochester, MN 0.931
20 Philadelphia, Camden, Wilmington 0.926
Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com