I've said before that I think that to the extent that Florida's thesis relies on the energy of the creative elite -- and don't miss that "to the extent" qualifier -- then it looks too narrowly at the problem, and it may confuse cause and effect. To the extent, though, that both books are associating economic growth with economic, social, and cultural openness, then Florida has a point, both in general, and about Pittsburgh -- even if the point isn't new, or sexy, or worth thousands of dollars in consulting and speaking fees.
In that regard, I thought that the best point in Dennis Roddy's Letter to the next Mayor was this one:
The messiest, and maybe the bravest, idea for growing a city is to crowd in the population first. Absent gigantic mills to absorb these folks, we need to grow the city one business at a time and that is the way immigration works.
You'll notice in any high-immigration population the number of restaurants, tailors, shoe repair shops and jewelry stores that spring up. That's because today's immigrants come with money or an idea to make some. And with population comes economic activity.
It's time for you and a number of other city mayors to lobby Washington for a free immigration zone. We already have free trade zones for international commerce. Why not similar ones for the people who create domestic trade? Those falling population numbers aren't symptoms of decline. They're the actual decline. We need warm bodies and this is a brave and crazy way to get them.