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Businessweek Archives

President Obama, Make Robert Redford The Secretary Of Commerce.


The President is having a hard time finding a Secretary of Commerce and I have the perfect person for the job??obert Redford. It?? not just that Redford has created his own startup, Sundance Film Festival, that super-charges the entire indie movie industry. Redford gets the role that creativity, art and culture play in generating economic growth. He is at the cutting edge of design thinking about how we need to transform the US into a creativity-driven growth economy.

How do I know this? When Congress cut out any funding in the Stimulus Bill for the Arts, Redford called House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and explained just how movies, museums and all that creative stuff generates jobs, wealth, taxes. Pelosi, having succombed to the prejudice that art was for the rich and flighty, agreed with Redford and switched her position.

So they added in to the Stimulus package $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. Now this is a ridiculous sum, I know, at a time when Congress is giving hundreds of billions of dollars to the bankers who caused the current recession and tens of billions of dollars to Detroit carmakers.

Richard Florida has a great article in the current issue of The Atlantic on How The Crash Will Reshape America. Florida points to the essential role of creativity in the generation of economic growth in cities. In the case of New York City, he argues that creative talent in media, marketing, design, fashion, movies, TV, music, graphics, webwork and more will save it from the Wall Street crash. Florida, who is a Professor of Business and Creativity at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, says it may actually be a good thing for Wall Street to shrink as a percentage of the New York GDP. It could lower rents and open up more opportunities for ??ulture growth.? There has been lots of talk in recent years about the dominance of this banking group,, how difficult it was for new talent to come and live in New York and how boring culture and life was becoming in New York without new blood.

What will the US look like as it emerges from this current crisis? “…most of all, it will be a landscape that can accomodate and accelerate invention, innovation and creation—the activities in which the US still holds a competitive advantage.”

Robert Redford gets this. Make him Secretary of Commerce.


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