‘Creative Community’- the cliff-hanger of Plaine Commune’s economic saga

« Architextures » de Johann Le Guillerm, (Secret Temps 2) à Babcock. © Jgp

One of the main goals of the Plaine Commune is to promote local economic development that in turn generates local employment. The EPT, an intercommunal consortium of 9 communes (established in January 2016) is demographically young with an average unemployment of 16 %, a rate higher than the region of Île de France. There are multiple initiatives and actions in place that directly or indirectly cater to the issue of local employment generation. As indicated by the Plaine Commune itself: Throughout the year, various operations mobilize businesses in the territory and make them aware of the need to employ locally. In the past, local officials have recognised issues in terms of insertion of employment programs in enterprises that relocated to the area from older business hubs notably after the establishment of the Stade de France. As bluntly remarked by Pilippe Pion, Deputy Director General of Plaine Commune-  “the large companies that set up their headquarters in La Plaine-Saint-Denis, recruited little locally. Only 3% to 4% of the people who work here live in the territory,”

To bell the cat..

Several local policies have been put in place, incrementally incentivising these business establishments to hire locally – though forums for business interactions and establishing internship programs that provide opportunities to young and aspiring locals with practical training and job opportunities. Although, progress has been slow with a lot of hiccups, both financial and administrative in increasing the number of enterprises willing to take part in the program and committing to hire locally on a consistent basis. Therefore, local authorities are increasingly looking to innovative measures to exploit the creative potential of Plaine Commune, that has long been in discussion as an urban tool to foster economic regeneration. 

As many popular districts around the world in early 21st century looked to enterprise on their inherent cultural value, localities of the Plaine Commune present all the right ingredients that stimulate the growth of creative culture- diverse social diversity, polycentric economic hubs, strong base of cultural activities and service sector and young demographic profile. Yet, there has been a difference in approach, in this French community, to the now controversial model of “creative cities” discussed by Richard Florida.

The justification perhaps lies in the legacy of periodic conflicts and crisis of law and order in the region, that necessitates the dichotomy of economic proposals, one part to render the territory attractive for new urban activities and talents and the second, to cater to local requirements of social cohesion and prosperity. In fact, this argument finds a strong footing in Boris Lebeau’s analysis of the Plaine Commune in “Une « banlieue creative » dans le Grand Paris ?”, in 2014 that presents the legitimacy of adapting the model of urban competition in the project titled “territoire de la culture et de la creation” in the wake of the Grand Paris. He debates the implementation strategy of the policy juxtaposed against the complex power play of local politics and the relation between the urban local government with the centre (referring to the history of mistrust and reservation) in terms of development projects and city branding investments. Hence the methodology adapted by the local policy makers was not to limit the aspirations of Plaine Commune to be the next creative business hub that adds to the competitive potential of Paris as a global powerhouse dubbed “cluster de la creation”; but to “present the territory as a creative environment likely to attract and fuel ideas and a whole range of cultural and creative activities, already established in the territory” in the name of “territoire de la culture et de la creation”.

Time is telling

Of course, the arguments of appropriating the local culture for economic gains remains accentuated with scepticism of speculation and fears of gentrification around projects of urban requalification in neighbourhoods looming high. Institutionalisation of creative activities to promote gainful employment is played with caution, such that it does not overwhelm the sensitivity of local consent. But the steepest climb for policy makers remains treading narrow on optimally tapping the economic potential of creative industries to safeguard market competitiveness without submitting to market demands.  

Foire des artisans,

References and Bibliography:

  1. Actualisation du plan communautaire pour l’activité economique et l’emploi (PCAE) 2006-2012, département développement économique, emploi et insertion, janvier 2010
  2. Une « banlieue créative » dans le Grand Paris ?, Boris Lebeau, EchoGéo janvier 2014/mars 2014, Open Edition Journals, URL : http://journals.openedition.org/echogeo/13718 DOI : 10.4000/echogeo.13718 ISSN : 1963-1197 ; Éditeur : Pôle de recherche pour l’organisation et la diffusion de l’information géographique (CNRS UMR 8586)
  3. Creative districts around the world celebrating the 500th anniversary of Bairro Alto, Lénia Marques and Greg Richards (EDS) NHTV, http://creativedistricts.imem.nl
  4. Interview: Richard Florida on Creative Cities and Economic Development, The Place Brand Observer, August 2nd 2016
  5. Richard Florida Is Wrong About Creative Cities, by Adam Ozimek, Forbes, May 23, 2012
  6. ‘Everything is gentrification now’: but Richard Florida isn’t sorry, Oliver Wainright, The Guardian Cities, 26 October 2017

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