“You’ve got the nature but you’re also close to big cities,” said Okulicz-Kozaryn.
Often, areas that lack urban resources are among those that more eagerly welcome them.
James Watson, Cumberland County’s economic development director, said, “Certainly with being so close to Philly, urbanization is going to continue to move in this direction from Camden. This is a positive.”
He pointed to urbanization as a possible way to lure more members of the creative class into his county, which he says already houses many artists who may be difficult to classify.
According to Richard Florida, who coined the term “creative class” to describe the young, educated engineers, graphic designers, visual artists, and writers who typically cluster in areas with public transit and opportunities for culture and entertainment, localities need a creative class to thrive in today’s economy.
Okulicz-Kozaryn posits that the creative class may be especially important to a rural region like South Jersey, or, more specifically, Cumberland County, where young educated people tend to leave after high school or college. Boasting the highest concentration of creative class residents in South Jersey, Burlington County’s ranking is double that of Cumberland’s. Burlington topped many of the positive demographic and economic categories and those measuring objective wellbeing like public health, and tied for second place in happiness.
The forum, titled “Changes Across the Region: People, Economy and Wellbeing,” was the first in a series of public discussions sponsored by the Sen. Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs at Rutgers-Camden to connect policymakers and community leaders with regional research and one another.