How to Make Sacramento a Creative Center

by Ronnie Nurss on May 17, 2012

In The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida presents the ultimate question that every person asks. It’s a question that every city should be trying to figure out how people answer it.

“How do we decide where to live and work? What really matters to us in making this kind of life decision? How has this changed – and why?”

Florida would be the first to state the obvious answer: jobs. But today, jobs are not the whole story. Florida lists a number of consistent themes that he’s noticed from his research:

  • The Creative Class moves away from traditional corporate communities, working class centers or even Sunbelt regions to places he labels “Creative Centers.”
  • Creative Centers are the new economic winners in today’s economy and they not only have high concentrations of Creative Class members, but also high concentrations of innovation and high-tech industry growth. Signs of this can be steady rise in population, regional employment, new companies being formed, etc.
  • Creative Centers thrive because creative people want to live there. Instead of people going where jobs and companies are, jobs and companies go where the creative people and creative centers are. Or in many cases, those jobs and companies end up being started by creative people in that very creative center.
  • Creative Class members do not seek out cities or communities with tradition attractions like mega malls, sports stadiums, beaches or theme parks. They instead seek communities that above all else, give them opportunity to validate their identities as creative people.

Let’s talk more about how communities or cities can become Creative Centers…

Florida talks about a lot of themes that all give power to a place…or essentially build a creative center that Creative Class members will flock to. I’ll focus on just three here…


According to Florida’s research and focus groups, the one thing that will always trump employment as a reason someone will take into consideration when choosing where to live is lifestyle. Many even turn down jobs in places that did not offer a variety of “scenes” that they desired. Scenes being: the music scene, art scene, technology scene, outdoors scene, etc.

Overall, people today expect more from the place they live and work. Sociologists Richard Lloyd and Terry Nichols Clark of the University of Chicago noted that people in post-industrial cities make more quality-of-life demands and increasingly act like tourists in their own city.

Florida attributes this trend to the nature of modern work and careers. Most members of the Creative Class have flexible and unpredictable schedules. Because of this, they want easy access to recreation.

Nightlife is an important part of lifestyle. A good definition of nightlife is “all entertainment activities that happen after dark.” Creative people want a nightlife with a variety of options–the most highly valued ones being music venues, neighborhood art galleries, performance spaces and theaters. Late night dining, bars, music clubs and coffee shops are also considered influential nightlife spots.

Social Interaction

People seek places where social interaction is easily accessible and enjoyable. Florida introduces the concept of “Third Places,” coined by Ray Oldenburg. Third Places are very important in modern society. They are neither home nor work–the first two spaces–but venues like coffee shops, bookstores, cafes or restaurants, any place where once can find less formal acquaintances. Oldenburg calls Third Places the heart of a community’s social vitality.

Basically, Third Places are where people “hang out simply for the pleasures of good company and lively conversation.”

Florida states that Third Places are attractive to the Creative Class because the first two places–home and work–have become less secured and stable, or not as traditional as they have been for previous generations. People are more likely to live alone or with roommates instead of family and we tend to change jobs or even careers more frequently. Third Places fill that void and always offer the opportunity of camaraderie and human interaction.


Florida’s focus groups and research consistently lists diversity among the most important factors in the Creative Class’s choice of location.  The major reason people are drawn to diverse places is for the range of thought and open mindedness.

This can include people of different ethnic groups and races, different ages, different sexual orientations and alternative appearances.
Diversity can also mean excitement and energy. Creative Class members want to hear different kinds of music, eat different types of food, and meet with people who are different from themselves, who exchange views and engage in interesting conversations.

Essentially, Florida says, a place that is diverse is very cosmopolitan; a place where anyone can find a peer group to be comfortable and familiar with but also find other peer groups to be stimulated by. Florida puts if perfectly: “a place seething with the interplay of cultures and ideas; a place where outsiders can quickly become insiders.”

In Conclusion

Sacramento can become a Creative Center. The city has a good start on these three themes…

Sacramento has a relatively active music scene, art scene, and a nationally-renowned outdoors scene with hundreds of miles of bike trails and river parks.

Sacramento is working toward a more quality nightlife. I chatted with a bartender recently who pointed out that Sacramento has been establishing four major corners or districts for entertainment: K Street; Midtown with The Mix, Deveres, The Park; R Street; and the Sutter District.

Also, Sacramento has been known for being one of the most diverse and ethnically integrated cities in the country, and perhaps the world according to TIME Magazine here.

Sacramento has all the ingredients to become a major Creative Center. Let’s start that conversation to see how we can make that happen…Thursday, May 31st at ThinkHouse at 7pm!

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