Virginia Scores No. 5 in Creative Class Ranking

Economic geographer Richard Florida has published a new book, “The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited,” and now that he’s blogging for The Atlantic, he’s publishing a lot of his data on his blog. Good news for fans of his creative-class analysis.

I was pleased to see that the Old Dominion ranks fifth in the country as measured by the creative-class share of the workforce. The creative class, by Florida’s definition, includes professionals in the fields of science and technology, design and architecture, arts, entertainment and media, and healthcare, law, management and education. Comprising one third of the national workforce, the creative class contributes disproportionately to innovation and economic growth.

Virginia, where 36.4% of the workforce falls into the creative category, owes its high ranking to inclusion in the Washington metropolitan statistical area. Washington, D.C., where the creative professions account for 57.8% of the workforce, took the top spot on the list. In Maryland, ranking third nationally, the share is 38%. Also in the Top 10 were Massachusetts (39% share), Connecticut (37%), Colorado (35.9%), New Hampshire (34.8%), New York (34.7%), Washington (34.7%) and Minnesota(34.6%).

Florida’s ranking of the top creative “counties” in the country is dominated by Northern Virginia jurisdictions. (Florida includes small independent cities such as Fairfax and Falls Church as counties.)

But the story is not all Northern Virginia. Albemarle County ranks 15th in the country. That distinction can’t be attributed solely to the University of Virginia. You don’t see any other college towns on the list, do you? (It would be interesting to know how Albemarle would have ranked if its numbers had been combined with the independent city of Charlottesville, making it truly comparable to counties outside Virginia.)

And then there’s York County in Hampton Roads. York County? Who would have figured it as one of the nation’s creative-class hotbeds?

All things considered, not a bad showing.


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  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    You mean Richmond, the highly touted “Capital of Creativity” didn’t make the list?

  2. Watch it, snide guy. Nobody has touted Richmond as a “capital of creativity.” People *are* asking what it takes to make the community more creative, how can we build upon the creative strengths that we do posses?

  3. thebyurokrat Avatar

    Your blog may be the number one source of state-ranking reports in Virginia.

    1. Yeah, I have a weakness for rankings.

  4. larryg Avatar

    is it my imagination or are many/most of the higher rates places dominated by Federal govt workers? Los Alamos?

    Let’s see the most creative that have a small percent of govt employees.

    1. Valid question. By Florida’s reckoning, the Washington region ought to be kicking the ass of every other metro in the country for innovation and creativity. Obviously, incomes are high. But does the federal government organizational culture foster innovation? Washington punches below its weight in indices of innovation.

  5. reed fawell Avatar
    reed fawell

    A Law Degree either obliterates the Creative Spirit, or engenders it. Unfortunately, the former event is the typical result..

  6. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Mr. Genius.

    “No one has touted” Richmond as the ‘Capital of creativity?”

    Really. Gues you don’t read the local newspaper. To wit:

    “Thomas A. Silvestri, president and publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and chairman of the Greater Richmond Chamber, said the idea for the partnership came from the chamber’s inner-city visits to Raleigh, N.C., and Austin, Texas.

    Those cities, he said, weren’t shy about touting their strengths, and neither should Richmond.

    “We have to start believing we are the capital of creativity,” Silvestri said.”

    Snide Guy

    1. DJRippert Avatar


      You are a journalist and I am not. So, let me ask you a question – Shouldn’t the president and publisher of the Richmond Times – Dispatch report the news in Richmond rather that trying to make the news in Richmond? When Silvestri starts, ” … believing we are the capital of creativity” I have to wonder about anything and everything written in the Times-Dispatch about the state of innovation and creativity in Richmond.

      Am I right?

    2. If Silvestri truly believes that Richmond is a “capital of creativity,” he’s deluding himself. But I think he was being aspirational — setting a goal for Richmond to work toward.

      Richmond *does* have some good raw material to work with. We *can* do more to spur innovation and to create exciting new business enterprises.

  7. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Don’t get me started. The publisher recently ended a term as chairman of the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce. The newspaper reminds me of my days as a U.S. correspondent in the Soviet Union. Pravda was the Communist Party newspape and Izvestia was the Soviet government newspaper. Got all blurry.

  8. DJRippert Avatar


    This was a good article. However, you have once again tried to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    First things first, eliminate Falls Church and Fairfax City from the list. Virginia’s odd-ball love affair with independent cities is the only reason that both are not included in Fairfax County.

    Now, let’s talk Albemarle. I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr. Florida may have gotten wrapped around the axle of Virginia’s bizarre geography. Where is the independent City of Charlottesville on the list? Anyway, about 142,000 people live in Charlottesville or Albemerle County. 21,000 are students at UVA and another 18,000 are employees of UVA or the medical center. That’s 27% of the entire population, let alone the working population. Seems like UVA is a pretty darn big influence to me.

    Then, you write, “You don’t see any other college towns on the list, do you?”. I don’t see any towns on the list. Only counties and the odd-ball Virginia independent cities which should be deleted from the list.

    So, the question is whether any of the counties that are on the list are dominated by universities.

    Kalawao County, HI has a population of 90 people. There is a bigger creative class in the office building where I work.

    Carter County, MT has a population of 1,160 people.

    San Francisco County (which includes the City of San Francisco) has mant, top tier nearby universities including Stanford, Berkeley, USF, etc.

    Douglass County, CO is a suburb of Denver in close proximity to many fine universities, most notably the University of Colorado – Boulder.

    Middlesex County, MA has more colleges and universities than you can shake a stick at. The county seat of Cambridge is home to both Harvard and MIT.

    Marin County, CA is adjacent to SanFrancisco County and shares access to that area’s many fine universities and colleges.

    Orange County, NC contains Chapel Hill (UNC) and parts of Durham (Duke). It is very much a “college county”.

    So, let review …

    We start with 20 “counties”

    Throw away the 5 absurdities and we’re left with 15 real counties. Eight of the 15 are absolutely bolstered by federal spending. That leaves 7.

    Of the 7, 6 (including Albemerle) are either dominated by or proximate to excellent colleges and universities.

    The remaining one is New York County.

    Reality check, Jimbo – outside of New York, the creative class concentrates where the federal government spends or where the top colleges exist.

    Second reality check – putting aside “government sponsored” creative class enclaves, all the remainder are liberal, liberal, liberal. Those are some of the most liberal, high tax, Democratic enclaves in America.

    So, what does Richmond need to make this list? Either a big federal presence or a top tier university or two. And, if you go the university route, you’d better plan on dropping that Henrico County Tea Party mentality like a bad habit.

  9. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I know you love lists and they serve a purpose. I hate lists because they can be so bogus. One of my freelance jobs was to help Forbes Small Business report and write a special section on “the 100 best places to retire and start a small business in America.”
    The data base people came up with “Lake Monticello” as part of Charlottesville. Drive there. It is a community of homes on a man-made lake about 20 miles away. Other than a few gas stations, no businesses. Another “great” place turned out to be a a collection of dilaptidated and declining strip malls in southeast Florida. It was populated by a lot of Northern retirees who scrape by on Social Security. One place with promise was Gainesville, a university town in Flordia. But one of the free lance editors on the project whose claim to fame was writing a book on chocolate had driven through the area briedfly and thought it “boring.”
    On it went. The obsession with lists is part of a game. Bogus data. Credibility gained by constant repittion on Google. Consultants hired by economic development agencies massage the data without checking it. Everybody buys it.
    Maybe that is one reason why Richard Florida, a consultant hustler par excellence, has been dining out on the same ideas for 20 or more years.

  10. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Make that Fortune Small Business. My mistake.

  11. Thanks for picking up on Orange County, N.C. — I didn’t realize that was home to Duke and Chapel Hill.

    You’re right about the federal government as a crucial player here. There’s no other way to explain the Washington metro area’s dominant presence.

    As for creative class communities being liberal, liberal, liberal. That’s undoubtedly the case. But what does it tell you? What kind of liberal? Social liberals, yes for sure. But creatives tend to skew libertarian — they aren’t necessarily big fans of government control over the economy.

    Finally, what does it take for Richmond to make the list? Richmond will never make the list — not in the 21st century. My hope is that it can move up the list. If we can move from 50th out of 100 to 40th on out of 100 in my lifetime, I’d be really pleased. What’s the alternative to trying? Resign ourselves to a slow slide into oblivion? No thanks.

  12. Agreed, a lot of lists are bogus. And they only tell you so much. But they do give us a general idea of where states and communities stand — which is better than not having a clue.

    As for Florida, I would disagree. He had one really big idea 10 years ago (when he wrote the “Rise of the Creative Class”), but he’s been refining and elaborating upon it ever since. I still find him worth reading.

  13. Duke is in Durham County, North Carolina.

    I also strongly question the implied statement Douglas County, Colorado is liberal. Quite the contrary. It ‘s also quite a ways from UC. Most of the others seem to be more or less liberal though.

    What social liberals are economically conservative? Not many in my experience.

    1. DJRippert Avatar


      My understanding is that Duke is in the City of Durham which is a very large (94.9 sq mi) city that spans into Durham, Orange and Wake Counties. Duke University might well be in the Durham County part of the City of Durham. However, in the context of the percentage of workers in the creative class, it’s hard to say that Duke doesn’t influence the numbers in Orange County.

      Douglas County is pretty conservative, fair point. However, I again question the logic of looking at percent creative class by county rather than MSA. Denver, in my opinion, is relatively liberal. Boulder is about 35 mi from Douglas County (from Littleton, Co at least).

      As for Jim’s point about social liberals being economically conservative – isn’t that the definition of a libertarian?

  14. larryg Avatar

    What kind of liberal?

    in NoVa?


    I think it’s interesting that we’re comparing and contrasting creativity with liberal.


  15. larryg Avatar

    yeah.. I’m a skeptic with Florida’s stuff…. I’d feel much better if he accounted for the influence of heavy Fed worker presence.

  16. larryg Avatar

    you have to look at the MSA…if there is a significant amount of exurban commuting.

    Durham has exurban commuting as well as Nova.

  17. Wikipedia indicates Durham (City) is within the boundaries of Durham County. Small parts of Chapel Hill (Orange County) and Raleigh (Wake County) are in Durham County. I am sure you are correct in that Duke University influences Orange (and Wake Counties) too, just as UNC and NC State have influence outside county borders. Looking at MSAs is probably a better measurement tool.
    I believe the University of Colorado has an influence on all of the Greater Denver Area, but as one heads south, the influence of the Air Force Academy and the large military complex (Space Command, Fort Carson, and Falcon AFB) probably is larger, IMO. Denver itself tends to have more Democrats/liberals as often occurs in large, central cities. Moreover, Denver is the state capital and there is a large number of federal employees working throughout the metro area, especially in the Lakewood Federal Center. People who make their living in the public sector are often more liberal (i.e., big government, more spending, more taxes) than people who make their living in the private sector – a gross simplification of course.

    1. DJRippert Avatar


      This is not a big point at all but I’d like to get the facts straight.

      Here’s what I see when I read the Wikipedia entry for Durham, North Carolina.,_North_Carolina

      “Durham is a city in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It is the county seat of Durham County[6] and portions also extend into Wake and Orange Counties.[2]”.

      I am not sure how we are seeing two different things here.

      Your point about the federal influence in and around Denver is a good one.

      The Air Force Academy is definitely a fine school. However, I think all of the service academies under-influence their geographies because the graduates are shipped elsewhere courtesy of Uncle Sam. I’ve often thought about Annapolis, MD as an almost perfect center for the creative class. In some ways, it is making progress. However, the progress has been slower than I expect. I think that’s because the graduates of the Naval Academy end up being sent away from Annapolis rather than have the choice to stay there.

  18. The City of Durham shows a city boundaries map that appears to stop at the county lines. The National Assn of Counties has a place locator that lists communities in counties. Durham is not shown in either Orange or Wake Counties.

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