The Great Reset by Richard Florida

Richard Florida Hits Reset

There’s no question that the biggest – and most controversial – name in economic development of late has been Richard Florida. The New Jersey native, who relocated to Toronto a few years ago to head the Martin Prosperity Institute, is best known for his 2002 book The Rise of the Creative Class. In that book, and in several follow-up books and articles (including The Flight Of The Creative Class and Who’s Your City?), he explored the increasing economic importance of a new group of creatively-oriented knowledge workers, and how they were reshaping the economies of communities across the industrial world. While that work won him many accolades and has helped to anchor a “creative industries” focus for economic development in many communities, it has also been described as too elitist, too urban and too obvious. Now Florida is back on the bookshelves with a new offering.

The Great Reset explores how the latest global recession is forcing a fundamental rethinking of the way local economies work, and how cities and regions are reshaping themselves as a result.  And while the “reset” that Florida refers to is an economic one, it also signals a redirection of his own thinking at work. Essentially, Florida suggests that we need to look to history to understand current economic development cycles. The“Long Depression” of the 1870s and the “Great Depression” of the 1930sare examined for parallels with the current global recession, with Florida concluding that each of these downturns fundamentally altered the global economy, and led to a “great reset.” This time out, instead of focusing on individual occupations and workforce-level measures of creativity, Florida explores how urban and suburban geography is being recreated. He returns to his old notions of “mega-regions” but in this book is far more interested in how and why some city-regions are thriving and growing (like Toronto, Pittsburgh and Seattle) while others are failing (like Detroit, Phoenix and Las Vegas), and how the successful ones are reorienting their focus in the face of the great reset.

This new orientation apparently owes a lot to Jane Jacobs, an urban theorist whose environmental and social critiques of 20th Century urban life helped reshape the way that planners conceive of “livable” cities. Although Jacobs’ last book, Dark Age Ahead, predicted the collapse of urban life in the industrialized world, Florida uses the reset analogy to predict a brighter possible future. Florida’s vision is based upon more closely linked urban and suburban zones thriving and growing where public transportation links are strongest, where the sense of community is greatest, and where youth congregate to explore and realize their full human potential. It’s a compelling vision, and described in a convincingly realistic manner. Is it still primarily urban in its focus?  Certainly. Does it celebrate an elite class of knowledge workers to the exclusion of other segments of the labour force? To a degree. But The Great Reset also offers a compelling and insightful view into the probable reconfiguration of our communities after this global recession. It speaks to the kinds of communities that are well-positioned in this reset, and to the kinds of economic and community development activities that we must pursue if we are to succeed in the economy to come.  Whatever your thoughts on Florida’s past work, The Great Reset is an important, compelling and highly recommended read for those trying to understand what comes next.  You can buy The Great Reset here for 37% off the cover price.