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Dear Du Quoin: Technology, talent & tolerance and 'The Rise of the Creative Class'

 
Mayor Rex Duncan
Posted on 3/4/2014, 9:00 AM

I recently finished the book “The Rise of the Creative Class: Revisited” by Dr. Richard Florida. Dr. Florida’s evidence-supported theories regarding economic growth tied to community development are interesting and instructive for towns like Du Quoin. Dr. Florida argues that creative people – engineers, computer techs, artists, and sculptors among many others that taken together form the Creative Class – will by their very creative energy drive economic growth in those communities that are prepared to welcome them.

Dr. Florida suggests that communities that are most attractive to the Creative Class are characterized by the presence of the Three T’s – Technology, Talent, and Tolerance. Until reading the “Rise of the Creative Class Revisited”, I hadn’t seen this expression of the 3-T’s, but intuitively it’s an important strategic element to how we are hoping to reshape Downtown Du Quoin. There are some interesting developments that may support that work.

Du Quoin Evening Call Publisher and unofficial Chronicler of All Things Du Quoin John Croessman did an excellent article on new downtown business Ultimate Gaming Championship, or UGC. Founded by an international group of entrepreneurs including Du Quoin’s own Matt Jackson and linked by their common interest (addiction?) to computer gaming, the UGC team has converted the old Ideal Cleaner building into a national computer gaming hub and broadcast studio.

I’m so excited by having UGC in Downtown Du Quoin I can barely contain myself. I love watching their broadcasts (mlg.tv/ugc). Not a gamer myself, I haven’t the slightest idea what they are talking about, but I’m completely fascinated with and thrilled at seeing UGC broadcasts emanate from Du Quoin!!

Gaming analyst and play-by-play commenter Scott Lussier has moved to Du Quoin from Virginia to pursue the UGC vision. John Beeby of London, England is a frequent visitor to our community. His other company, Pink Imp (www.pinkimp.com), specializes in online broadcasting. Jon said he has been astounded at how cordially he has been treated in Du Quoin!

Now back to the 3-T’s. About 3-4 years ago Downtown Du Quoin businesses didn’t have access to the internet bandwidth necessary for a business like UGC. Today we hit that mark with the first T – Technology. Talented (the 2nd T), creative people who understand Technology felt that Du Quoin offered the potential for development of and investment in a successful business venture. With some back-breaking labor and creative ingenuity, these intrepid entrepreneurs successfully launched on Jan. 30.

So far, we – the people of Du Quoin – have met the third T – Tolerance. We’ve warmly welcomed Scott, his friend Stephanie, and Jon to our community. They are risking their money on a future here in part because we embraced and supported these young entrepreneurs. Economic development isn’t just the job of a city council. It’s a job we ALL share, sometimes by nothing more easily done than being nice to visitors to Du Quoin.

Other dimensions of Tolerance require the recognition that entrepreneurs love to start new businesses, but that those businesses don’t always succeed. I don’t know what the future holds for UGC. I’m rooting for them. I hope they are successful, attract hundreds of visitors to our community, and stay for years.

I also hope that if they don’t make it, we continue to embrace these great people and encourage them to go start something else in town. Entrepreneurs whose businesses don’t succeed aren’t losers. They are learners who, if supported and encouraged, are willing to apply what they previously learned in new businesses. That’s an important of part of that critical third T - Tolerance.

The likelihood that General Motors or Ford will build an enormous factory in Du Quoin and completely reverse our economic fortunes in one fell swoop is infinitesimal at best. The likelihood that Downtown Du Quoin could become a preferred landing spot for small Creative Class-launched businesses is increasing and gaining traction.

Creative Class work tends to pay better, have better benefits, and be more personally rewarding. If a half dozen new businesses like UGC launched in our Downtown, each hiring six new workers, those 36 jobs could have greater economic impact that 70 jobs paying at or just above the minimum wage. It’s to our very great advantage to continue to encourage Creative Class entrepreneurs to settle in to Downtown Du Quoin.

In the meantime, to our UGC friends, WELCOME! To me you are like springtime robins returning after a long winter. I hope you are at the start of a prosperous, long-term enterprise. Thank you for choosing Du Quoin.

And as always, we’ll talk later.