The Maryland Institute College of Art June, 2004
The Creative Community
TYRONE D. TABORN
Chief Executive Officer
Career Communications Group
Thanks. I think this discussion about the importance of the creative community and its impact on Baltimore and other cities is very critical and timely.
We've been talking today about how the creative community impacts on economic development. I would like to broaden this discussion by examining the role of minorities.
Communities grow largely because of four factors: Reliable infrastructure, including plentiful energy; fast and inexpensive telecommunications; access to a skilled labor force; and high quality of life.
I don't see how we can even begin this discussion without seriously addressing the issue of equality for minorities and the impact of that on the labor force.
Let's take just a slice of the issue. Baltimore has the potential of becoming a global leader in biotechnology. But what will our biotech work force look like? It is very questionable that the area's schools will be able to produce the kind of skilled workers that will be needed by employers.
At the undergraduate level, we are mirroring the national attrition trends for minority engineering students. Only 36 percent of African-American students actually complete their degree programs in engineering. White students are almost twice as likely to finish.
Some of the reasons for this include minority students' not believing that they are welcome or that they are stakeholders in the educational process; the negative perceptions that instructors hold of them; and their lack of role models.
The implications of this failure rate are profound on the creative community. First, those students who are successful in the educational process are more likely to leave the region. Second, those who do remain are more likely to need the social safety nets that require resources that could be invested elsewhere.
So, in other words, creation of a strong creative community is dependent upon the success of our minority groups.
Now, let's look at the creative community from the employers' point of view. We have a very difficult time recruiting and getting job candidates to relocate to Baltimore. Part of the problem is that it is difficult for young college graduates and professionals to plug into the cultural network here. For students in college, it's less of a challenge. I've been here for 20 years, and I'm not sure if I have ever fully connected.
Critical mass is another challenge. I'm in the media field. In New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, you can easily plug into networks of writers, producers, artists, and other like-minded professionals. In Baltimore, the numbers are smaller, and there is less diversity among young professionals. As a result, there are limited networking and professional development opportunities. This networking of creative professionals is a requirement for their professional growth.
My company has lost several great job candidates. It had nothing to do with salary and benefits and everything to do with career growth. If you were a young journalist or graphic artist not from Baltimore, why would you come here if an opportunity existed in New York or Los Angeles?
Global pressure will intensify the need to promote a cultural and creative community with employee-added value and business-added value. As more countries create their own creative communities, not only will they provide the work forces attractive to American corporations, they also will retain their work forces.
Last week, a leading American computer chip manufacturer commented that the company could be successful without one employee in America. And many corporations are relocating their research and development abroad, signaling a long-term commitment to those countries.
Lastly, I want to issue a warning to those of you who are interested in these creative community concepts. American policy after 9/11 has done much to hurt the diversity and richness of thought and culture that foreigners bring to America. Since 9/11, our universities have suffered because foreign students can't get the educational visas they need to come here. Both universities and employers have endured pains in hiring faculty, associates, and researchers.
I was heartened by a recent study that showed seven out of 10 college graduates cited diversity as one of their top reasons for selecting an employer. Diversity lays the foundation of the creative community. If fear and some narrow-mindedness cause us to put a fence around America, then the creative community will be that much more difficult to realize.