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Baltimore: Shifting from an Industrial Region to a Creative Region

September 12, 2007

What factors will enable regions with a historical strong industrial heritage to become attractive to creative individuals? According to Richard Florida in his 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class, creative people are most drawn to places that have an abundance of existing creative talent, a tolerance for diversity, and the ability to produce technology. Florida uses various measures to quantify a region’s talent, tolerance and technology - also known as the 3Ts - and combines them to produce a creativity index that allows comparison between locations.


Using this framework, Zoltan Acs from George Mason University and Monika Megyesi from the University of Baltimore compare the metro Baltimore region to seven other similar regions with a strong industrial heritage. In Creativity and Industrial Cities: A Case Study of Baltimore, the authors rank the Baltimore metropolitan statistical area first among Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis in an overall creativity index. Of all metropolitan areas in the U.S. with populations greater than one million, Baltimore placed 17th with its creative index score, and the authors claim Baltimore is “the first industrial city to begin a turnaround.”


Further comparing these industrial peer regions, Baltimore was found to have the highest value on an index measuring the talent or the perceived creative component of the workforce. This was calculated by using data on demographic, educational, and occupational characteristics. Baltimore was found to be second highest among these peers, behind Chicago, in a tolerance index based on measures of a region’s openness to diversity and the extent a region stimulates the development of artists, musicians and other performers. Finally, Baltimore was ranked fifth among the eight regions in an index based on technology development.


Each of the component “Ts” that feed into their creativity index is integral to attracting people, none of which the authors claim are sufficient to produce economic growth by itself. They contend the interdependence of these factors explain why other places in the country are not growing despite having a skilled workforce and world-class universities. If a region is not tolerant enough, they will not be able to attract and retain creative talent.


While Baltimore performs well using these indices when compared to the selected peer regions, its strength and potential may come from its proximity to Washington, D.C. Using larger geographical boundaries to represent mega-regions, the authors find the combined Washington-Baltimore area outranks the New York-New Jersey-Long Island, the Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County, and the Chicago-Gary-Kenosha areas (the country’s three most populous) in their overall creativity index.


Creativity and Industrial Cities: A Case Study of Baltimore is available at:



Baltimore will be the site of SSTI’s upcoming annual conference, Transforming Regional Economies, set to take place in the Inner Harbor Oct. 18-19. Filled with charming neighborhoods and exciting things to experience, Baltimore is Maryland’s largest city and its cultural capital. Maryland is home to the nationally ranked research universities, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, the nation’s highest cluster of federal R&D laboratories, and a thriving private technology sector of both IT and bioscience companies.


Maryland also is home to a complex network of successful state, academic and regional TBED organizations, many of which will be profiled during SSTI’s annual conference. More information is available at: http://www.ssticonference.org/