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Foreign Policy mag’s Global Cities Index event-we’re #8!

Friday 31 October, 2008

Last week I attended the unveiling of the Global Cities Index, which was created by Foreign Policy magazine,  the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, & A.T. Kearney Management Consultants.  What’s novel is including criteria beyond population & business activity to create the index.  Adding human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, & political engagement alter the rankings somewhat.

CCGA President Marshall Bouton opened the luncheon by noting
1-populations in cities exceeded those outside of cities for the 1st time in the world in 2008 (urban>rural)
2-cities are nodes of globalization
3-Chicago is 1 of the most dynamic global cities in the world

Paul Laudicina of A.T. Kearney made a presentation on where the Global Cities Index & where Chicago fits within it.  Here it is: globalcitiesindex

Richard Longworth subbed for Saskia Sasken who was marooned in Singapore & couldn’t return in time to make the luncheon.  He questioned, why is globalization so urban?  Because we (headquarters as nerve centers) have a tendency to concentrate & not scatter (like tasks do).  Technology hasn’t freed us from our sense of place.  We still need face time to connect.  There is no 1 global economy-it’s simply a sum of many interconnected circuits.  People are still required & Chicago is a magnet for 50,000 college graduates every year.  Rather than the city of big shoulders, Chicago is now the city of high foreheads.

Q&A answered:

-Chicago still has obstacles to moving up the rankings.  Media coverage of world events is an issue.  The Chicago Tribune was ranked #23 in this category.  Chicago has a miniscule tourism budget.  We need to get over our inferiority complex & pull locals into the global economy.  Public education & transportation are problems many large cities face.

-given the recent financial crisis, New York will probably fall in the rankings in the future

-Chicago will move up in cultural exchange & political engagement will come by advertising to international travelers who pass through Chicago but seldom stay here.  Providing more foreign language signage for them @ O’Hare would help.

-Chicago needs to develop a personality in the media to present a memorable face to the world.

My $.02:  a friend from Boston was surprised Chicago ranked so high.  My response is these things are calibrated to achieve desired results.  The speakers noted that on an early draft of the index, Paris was ranked low in culture because it had relatively few foreign restaurants.  It was rejiggered to reflect Paris’ higher status in culture.  My point is, these things can be changed to reflect the creators perception of reality.  If this were done by a European organization, I suspect it would have come up with different results.  What is reality?  Take your pick.  Another component to add would be foreign language capability, a reflection of ability to engage with the rest of the world.  American cities would fall, but I think that’s an appropriate reflection of reality.  On the whole, this is a valuable exercise.  It will be interesting to see how this evolves in the future.

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