Blog: Aaron Alston

Aaron Alston is the CEO of Cadre Systems and a co-owner of Candor Marketing. He is also a co-managing member of Vinton Building, LLC and a board member with CreateDetroit.

Aaron will be writing about how we should view Detroit; as a glass half empty or a glass half full?  Join the conversation with your comments!

Post No. 3

Paradigm Shift

Several weeks ago I attended one of Model D's speaker series featuring quest speakers Carol Colletta (President of CEO's for Cities) and professor Lou Glazer of U of M.. I was intrigued to hear that Detroit, out of 70 cities across the U.S. with populations of 250,000 or more according to Ms. Colletta's research, ranked 11th in the of number of creative sector workers – the often coveted, well educated, new economy resource. I wondered, how could this be true considering all the talk about this regions' need to develop a creative sector. Where are these folks? 

I paused and thought for a second… Detroit is home to the College for Creative Studies (CCS) that has produced many award winning designers such as Ralph Gales (Designer of the Chrysler 300) and others, and there is a large representation of the world's largest advertising agencies. 

Ms. Colletta went on to explain, that unlike the mappings of creative talent in other flourishing cities by where creative talent is concentrated around one central core, Detroit's talent is scattered all about the metropolitan area. And her studies have shown that cities that have been able to cluster its creative talent around a core are more likely to produce communities that are vibrant, productive, and desirable.

This helps to explain how Detroit can be ranked 11 th in the country in creative talent and still find those who feel as if, socially, they live on an island, miles away from the sight of another creative person. As a result, we continue to hear the all too common claim, "I'm here because of my job however as soon as I find something else, I'm outa here." Compounding the problem, a growing number of the creative class professions are being affected by the pinch from the contracting auto industry and the ripple effect it has had on this whole region – leaving many creative works without employment. 

Now without a job and a social reason to stay in Detroit, we stand to loose much of our creative talent to other cities in other states that are better at cultivating a centralized core of creative talent that helps in both attracting new talent and retaining talent that is already there. It will be cities that nurture this sort of clustering of creative talent that will fair best in the growing global competition of talent attraction. 

Attracting talent, according to scholars such as University of Michigan's Lou Glazer and George Mason University's Richard Florida, is one of the greatest challenge facing cities and or regions today. Richard Florida suggests in his book "The Flight of the Creative Class" that wherever the creative class lands, high paying knowledge jobs will follow. So, in other words, cities that wish to compete successfully for high wage employers must first crack the code on attracting talent - talent attraction matters. This can be validated by tracking the growth patterns of some of America's leading emerging cities such as Columbus Ohio, Austin Texas, and Portland Oregon. All of which have leveraged universities, urban residential developments, and strategic cultural activities and entertainment events to create a catalyst for growth. 

In a city that helped usher in the industrial revolution and initiated the mass migration from the south to the north in part by Henry Fords' advertised offer of $5 per hour pay for 8 hours work, it is easy to understand the difficulty for many of our leaders to accept this shifting paradigm of jobs following talent. Unfortunately, many of these same leaders still exclaim that all we need to do to cure the ills of this city is to create good paying jobs. However, attempting to do so without recognizing the changing landscape would prove to be a futile effort. We need to identify and support those leaders who "get it" and that will eventually go on to become as influential as the Henry Ford was in shaping the success of this region. 

What do you think and who do you think "Gets it?"