It appears the American economy is sputtering back to life. Home sales in many areas are recovering. The state of California is actually running a budget surplus.
So what about jobs? Pure statistics are showing that the unemployment rate is lurching back toward normalcy, straining to return to a not-so-scary rate. The jobs may be returning. But as I look around, especially here in southern Vermont, it’s plain to see that the nature of those jobs is changing. A new economy is taking hold.
It’s called the “creative economy.” Books are being written about it. Entire departments at the Vermont State Offices are being named after it. And Mondo Mediaworks is lucky to be right in the middle of it.
The creative economy is a lot like it sounds. It’s an exchange of ideas that, in turn, become business. As you might expect, the creative economy is made up of artists, designers, writers and web developers. But it’s also made up of S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) professionals. It could even be the accountant that did your taxes. Wherever people are finding innovative approaches to employment, the creative economy is thriving.
The Creative Economy is rising both by choice and necessity. Free-thinking workers are approaching careers with an entrepreneurial spirit because it’s exciting, challenging and rewarding. But this is also happening because the days of secure jobs with pensions and comprehensive health care are dying. My father retired from teaching English at a public high school at the age of 58 with a great retirement package and medical plan. He is set for life. But in a post-Great Recession era, that kind of career outlook is becoming increasingly rare.
To help understand the new creative economy, one need only look to The Cotton Mill in Brattleboro, Vermont. This old mill building was converted to 145,000 square feet of business incubator space. New businesses have blossomed in the big, loft-like spaces. Artists, web developers, organic food companies, a home-school-curriculum provider, woodworkers, tile art ceramicists, a circus school, glass blowers, a diaper company, jewelry makers… they’re all setting up shop along the shores of the Connecticut River, creating a vibrant economic hub in Brattleboro.
In 2011, the Vermont Office of the Creative Economy was established. Its mission is to help creative enterprises thrive in Vermont. Old institutional structures of employment may be dying. But rising in its place are support structures like the Office of the Creative Economy.
Here we are in early June — graduation season. I’m not famous enough to be invited to speak at a commencement. But if I delivered a speech this year, I’d tell young people on the precipice of careers to think creatively. Be bold. The American economy is anything but stable or predictable right now, but creative approaches to business will be rewarded.
Chief, Mondo Mediaworks