By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Aug 13, 2002 at 5:05 AM

Richard Florida hung out with local musician Sigmund Snopek last Wednesday evening hopping from Riverwest bar to Riverwest bar and eventually landing at Brady Street's Nomad World Pub.

Siggy showed the professor of regional economic development at Carnegie Mellon's Heinz School of Public Policy many of the spaces, places and slices of life that make Milwaukee Milwaukee. And Florida, a Pittsburgh resident and Jersey native, loved every minute of it.

In town last week for the One Year Birthday Celebration of the city's rapidly growing young professionals group, Young Professionals of Milwaukee, Florida came with a provocative new way to think about the way we live today.

His new book, "The Rise of the Creative Class (and How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life)," is quickly becoming the handbook for cities and regions that want to continue to become vibrant centers in which to live, work and play.

"You guys need to better promote the fact that the Violent Femmes, one of the best rock bands ever, are from Milwaukee," Florida told the crowd of more than 600 at The Rep.

Florida described a society in which the creative class is becoming increasingly dominant. Millions are beginning to work and live much as creative types like artists, musicians and scientists always have -- according to their own values, tastes, relationships. Consequently, choices of where to live and how to manage their time are changing.

Florida's research shows that the creative class, the nearly 38 million Americans in diverse fields who create for a living, are leading the shift.

Florida recounted a story of a Pittsbugh business leader who wondered why area residents were shunning $20-25 per-hour jobs in factories for lower paying jobs in beauty parlors and other small businesses. He discovered that people wanted the opportunity to not punch a clock, have flexible hours and hopefully pursue their creative dreams. A rigid, non-creative job wouldn't allow this option.

Florida believes Milwaukee has all the ingredients to become a leading city in the new economy. The most important of these ingredients are what he refers to as the three Ts -- talent, technology and tolerance.

Creative people have always gravitated to certain kinds of communities, he said, those that provide the stimulation, diversity and a richness of experience that are the wellsprings of creativity.

He mocked communities for "recruiting jobs," noting that "cities need a people climate even more than they need a business climate." As a former Seattle mayor once said, success "lies in creating a place where the creative experience can flourish."

Florida pointed out that we are all creative no matter what our jobs, backgrounds or education, adding, "Instead of subsidizing companies, stadiums and retail centers, communities need to be open to diversity and invest in the kinds of lifestyle options and amenities people really want. In fact, you cannot be a thriving high-tech center if you don't do this."


Two of the things Florida really loved about Milwaukee were our old buildings and real neighborhoods. Calling Toronto and New York his two favorite cities, he urged Milwaukee to partner and collaborate with Madison and Chicago, saying that these two cities complete a triangle that comprises the fifth biggest population of talent in the world.

Chicago is an asset for Milwaukee and vice versa. But what Milwaukee has that is truly unique is its old character. Noting that "new ideas require old buildings," Florida marveled at The Riverwalk, condo developments like the Cawker Building, City Hall and the richness and diversity of Riverwest, Brady Street and other surrounding greater-downtown neighborhoods.

Florida challenged Milwaukeeans to love their city, think big, get involved and reach out to others to embrace differences. He was amazed that downtown had an event every night of the week in the summer and loved the buzz and scene at Jazz in the Park.

Pittsburgh mirrors Milwaukee a bit in that both are evolving and re-building, but since he had the ears of hundreds of young Milwaukeeans he urged them to continue to fight for what they want to see in Milwaukee and to be champions for their hometown.

Florida also challenged Milwaukee to embrace all people -- the key to success today lies in developing a world-class people climate.

Florida will be the guest on WTMJ's Sunday Night with Mike Gousha on Sun., Sept. 1. The show begins at 10:35 p.m. but date and time is subject to change, so please consult your local listings.

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.