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Eugene Can’t Wait for Prosperity

January 5th, 2007 by dk

Then there’s Robb Hankins other legacy. Earlier and lesser known than his city slogan campaign, Hankins had a dozen copies of Richard Florida’s book “The Rise of the Creative Class” circulating among local movers and shakers. Florida’s book is a study of clarity, always so attractive to Eugene’s utopians. He starts with his conclusion and then gathers his facts to fit his purpose. He shows with table after table that waiting tables can drive a local economy, that the arts can be an economic engine, that retirees and upper-class aficionados can leave enough on the table to keep young people happy, especially in college towns with low crime rates, towns like Eugene.

As a formula for economic prosperity, it’s not bad, as far as it goes. If you build a town with superlative arts, then people will be drawn to the place. Eventually those people will leave, but not until they’ve spent their money. It’s a neat trick entirely worth considering.

Trouble hits when the entertainment economy butts up against another of our core values. We have “a good place to raise a family” and it’s certainly true.

But what happens when our children start their own careers and want to raise their own children? Then what? Waiting tables or ushering starts to lose its luster at that point. The burden of buying a house amplifies it, especially when they’re competing with empty-nester-Californians who came to town for the Bach Festival and decided they could retire here.

How do we help young families while we enjoy our creative economy? We probably do what Robb Hankins himself did. We let them go to the Midwest, where families matter and economies are built around keeping them together. With any luck, they’ll do well there and remember this place fondly, so when they have succeeded to the point where they can become part of the creative class, they’ll be back.

But how many family reunions will they have missed in the meantime?

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