Economic indicators are slippery things, which is why soothsayers don’t have much job security. The unemployment rate dipped this month, but may be much higher than indicated, as folks who have stopped looking for work are not counted. Meanwhile, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal say that the recession is over. Or is it?
One clear indication of an improving economy may be hidden in the news on our front page about good workers being hard to find: Businesses looking for new staff implies growth and expansion.
On the same page we report on Nanotherapuetics getting a new contract that could grow to be worth more than $30 million over the next few years, and its hopes for a bio-tech related manufacturing plant in Alachua leading to even more jobs hereabouts. That seems to to be another evidentiary data point in the economic engine fueled by the “innovation economy” we’re hearing so much about.
Everywhere I turn there are efforts, some more successful than others, to harness innovative solutions for bringing science, technology, engineering and math to bear upon the area’s economy for the good of all: GTEC, Innovation Square, the Sid Martin Biotechnology incubator, CIED at Santa Fe, Synogen and more.
What does all this have to do with Leonardo da Vinci?
Ask scientists or engineers, and they’ll tell you he was one of them: architect of flying machines, a machine gun, armored vehicles, artillery, solar power and more.
But wasn’t he an artist? Painter? Sculptor? Writer? Musician? A dreamer of inexhaustible energy?
The wise and learned among us will point out that he was all of that—that is Leonardo’s Lesson—to separate science and technology from artistic creativity, which our culture and educational institutions tend to do, diminishes all of them, all of us, and is essentially counter to the way our minds work.
There is also a lesson here for our community—both philosophically and in economic terms—as we hear the buzz about the innovation economy.
I was reminded of Leonardo’s Lesson over the past month, my first as publisher here at Broad Beach Media, which creates this Business Report, its sister entertainment magazine, INsite; Welcome Magazine, the Gainesville Survival Guide, Navigator and MyGainesvilleRestaurants.com.
What I witnessed is a robust economic engine in the creative arts, fully grown, mature and healthy, that employs many, improves the quality of life for the entire community, brings thousands of visitors to the area and engenders joy, goodwill, curiosity and a sense of fun, adventure and learning in all who experience it.
I witnessed it the other night in the O’ Connell Center, enthralled by an astonishing performance of Cirque du Soleil. I was recently overwhelmed by the passion and sheer excellence of everyone—from college staff, to professional performers, to the wildly talented students—involved in “Light Up the Night,” the Fine Arts Hall premiere at Santa Fe College. I’ve seen it in small community theaters across the area. I’ve watched it strut and fret upon the stage at UF’s Constans Theatre in the Nadine McGuire Theatre and Dance Pavilion as well as in the Black Box Theater there. It’s across campus at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and its Squitieri Studio Theatre. It is heard in Bo Diddley Community Plaza.
It happens on cue all the time downtown at the Hippodrome. It swims in the springs beloved Florida’s Eden, glows in kilns tended by potters and shimmers in paintings from Melrose to Micanopy to Gainesville’s Downtown Arts Festival.
It’s part of why we live here, woven into the fabric of community as much as Gator football, great barbecue and oh, so many great restaurants.
I was talking about Leonardo’s Lesson the other day with a friend who is an expert in commercial real estate. We agreed that it is a key indicator of the health of the area’s economy as we enumerated tools for employee and new business recruitment to the area, as well as for enticing our graduates to remain.
Then we remembered: It’s why we’re here.
And it’s not all that far from the beach.