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Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page F03

In his first book, "The Rise of the Creative Class," Richard Florida, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, changed the conversation in the economic development world from chasing companies to chasing people. The people Florida focuses on are young, well-educated, hip and culturally diverse, with the spark of creativity that ignites fast-growing companies and booming regional economies. Since then, Florida has moved to the District and joined the faculty of George Mason University. In his newest book, The Flight of the Creative Class (HarperBusiness), Florida takes on critics who accuse him of elitism, anti-corporatism and moral depravity (his finding that high concentrations of gay residents correlates with creativity did not sit well with the Christian right). And he extends his thesis globally, pointing out that the competition for top talent isn't just between Boston and Austin but includes Paris, Sydney and Bangalore, India. Florida makes an effort to wrestle with some of the downsides of the new economic competition he celebrates -- rising income inequality, the loss of blue-collar employment and the dead-end quality of so many service-sector jobs. Some of his solutions border on the utopian, while others -- open immigration, greater tolerance for alternative lifestyles and stepped-up public investments in R&D, urban revitalization, the arts and education -- are as logical as they are out of sync with the agenda of Republican Washington.

-- S.P.

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