One of the foremost urban theorists in the world -- one upbeat enough to refer to America's shrinking economy as "The Great Reset", mind you -- told a crowd at the University of Texas at Arlington Friday that his research team rated DFW 23rd in tolerance among metro areas in the U.S.
Renowned author and professor Richard Florida wasn't speaking about success in race relations or politics. In an energetic message as part of the school's Mavericks Speakers Series about valuing creative people as "a new source of wealth" to replace the manufactured goods of an "old style industrial economy", Florida said inclusiveness is just as important to a city's economic growth as technological resources or a pool of talented workers. Florida branded these ideas back in 2002 with The Rise of the Creative Class, a book that has become a manifesto for city and business leaders that want to attract young professionals.
According to Florida, densely populated cities where innovators can thrive are the key to revitalizing the economy. In order for cities to be successful, Florida said, they must foster the 4 Ts: technology, talent, tolerance, and territory assets, characteristics that his research and advisory firm, The Creative Class Group, measures using census data and other statistics. For instance, DFW found its relatively high place on the tolerance list because of factors like the percentages of foreign-born people or gays and lesbians that live in the area.
Incidents like the June police raid of a Forth Worth gay bar that left a patron seriously injured and spawned a number of protests by civil rights groups -- and another gay bar raid in Fort Worth soon after -- suggest room for street-level improvement.
Florida laughed off critics who've said his passions for open-mindedness shroud a "secret gay agenda." Ethical and moral ideologies aside, Florida said during a Q&A session, cities must encourage acceptance of all types of people and lifestyles to stay afloat in a changing economy.
"If you want to grow, you need tolerance," Florida said