A LONG time ago, in 2002, there was discussion in Spokane about a book called "The Rise of the Creative Class" by Richard Florida. In fact, Mr. Florida came to town to talk about the idea of creating economic prosperity by supporting the creative class. The Inlander did an issue dedicated to this topic, and for some reason (I think I have pictures of an editor from a pub crawl), they asked me (and lots of others) to contribute a short essay. Below is what I provided to the Inlander, but I thought it was relevant today (although I am glad to point out that there are a lot more microbreweries around now than there were then).
Supporting the Creative Class
In my work at the Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company, I have discovered the simple, direct and guaranteed path for the Inland Northwest to support the “Creative Class.” My advice can be encapsulated in this pithy, easy to remember mantra: DRINK LOCAL BEER. Lest you think this is purely self-serving, please keep in mind that there are two local breweries, so it’s not just the Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company. You can and should also buy beer from the Northern Lights Brewery. And, actually, there is a little more to it than that. You also have to go listen to local bands. The benefit here is that you can often listen to local bands AND drink local beer. You should also buy a CD from every local band. Also, if you find you need a break from local beer, you can also drink local wine or enjoy a hot cup of local coffee. You should do this in restaurants owned by local people. When you pay the bill, you should write a check from your local bank. If you need a night at home, fix yourself a nice dinner, with groceries purchased from a locally-owned store. When you are sitting at the table and notice that it might be time to replace the “left-over from college” poster on the wall, seek out a local piece of artwork, from a local artist, at a local gallery or local art festival. To celebrate purchasing real local artwork, instead of drinking another local beer, go out for an evening at a local symphony, chamber group or quartet of your choosing. If an outdoor experience seems more appropriate, make sure you get your bike tuned up at a local shop or your new fishing gear at a local outfitter. After all of this local experience, when you get home, just imagine: you can crack open a bottle of local beer, put on a CD from a local band, sit down where you can see your local artwork and finally, open up a book purchased, yes, at a local bookstore.
If you get really excited about this process, you can do it in virtually every aspect of your life. I suggest you start again with the basics. You go into a bar or restaurant that isn’t a locally-owned spot (say your boss, who is new to town, picks the place and she isn’t hip to this “local” tidal wave sweeping the region), the first thing you do when your server comes up to the table is say, “What local beer do you have?” Or better yet, “Do you have any excellent Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company or Northern Lights beer on tap?” You see, your server in a non-local spot may need clear sign posts. In fact, wherever you go, you can start with the question, “What do you have that it is local?” You might be surprised at the answer and, you will discover, that what is local in this place happens to be great.
In some of our neighboring cities, like Seattle, Portland and Boise, the people are convinced that the things created in their cities are better than the stuff created somewhere else. Given a choice between local and non-local, it is a hands-down, no-brainer decision to pick local. Because it’s made by them and it’s made for them. And when you get down to the nitty-gritty, it makes strong economic sense. For every dollar you spend at a local company, you can make some reasonable assumptions. First, you know the employees are local, so their paychecks get spent at the same local spots you are supporting. Next, you know the owners are local, so if they are lucky enough to make a buck, that buck is going to be spent on local goods and services. And even before that buck of profit, the local owner is likely to be hiring some local bookkeeping help, maybe using a local lawyer, engaging a local graphic artist to design a local logo, advertising in a local publication (like this one) and overall, using those local dollars to help the local economy. With an equation like that, not only is the creative class going to get direct support from your purchases of artwork and CD’s, but those who are currently working in local restaurants, health clubs, stores, banks and tattoo parlors are going to have jobs and benefits and the opportunity to express their creative impulses. And all because you went out and had a local beer. Well, I raise my glass to you and to the creative class you are supporting.