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the future of cities…

Thursday 30 December, 2010

I recently attended this day-long event Global Metro Summit: Delivering the Next Economy which was sponsored by the Brookings Institution, London School of Economics & Political Science, Alfred Herrhausen Society/International Forum of Deutsche Bank, & Time magazine.  They’ve made most of the information presented available here program materials so I won’t rehash that info, but here are a few things you won’t find there:

They included a couple of articles from Time magazine which brought out a couple of interesting points to me. City Centered – Intelligent Cities which was authored by Bruce Katz, notes  “Greater Chicago contains 67% of the residents of Illinois and generates 78% of the state’s economic output. But Illinois has pursued transportation and infrastructure policies that divert tax revenue from Chicago to subsidize inefficient investments in the rest of the state.”  He suggests the federal government forgoing/capping mortgage interest deductions & diverting 1/2 to grow exports.  He also recommends investment in world-class infrastructure to connect with global markets:   “Think port infrastructure in global-trade gateways like Los Angeles or freight corridors in and around Chicago.  Finally, let’s challenge every metro area to meet and exceed the national goal of doubling exports…— cities and suburbs need to team up with businesses to devise export initiatives that build on their metro’s distinctive position in the market. We can’t as a nation double exports unless our metros and their businesses (both large and small) do.”

Another Time article highlighted Torino, Italy’s rejuvenationWhat Torino Can Teach Cleveland – Intelligent Cities Keys were expansion into international markets & geographical market diversification, & cited an example of the 2A die casting foundry for which exports account for 85% of its business.

My 1 question coming out of this event is “what is the role of small business in supposed export-led growth in metropolitan areas?” I wholeheartedly endorse that sentiment & would love to contribute to fulfilling it, but I question whether small businesses are prepared & inclined to pursue exports to make this come true.  History would indicate that’s the case, which means a change will need to occur to make that happen.  I would bet this is in response to Obama’s National Export Initiative’s goal of doubling US exports in the next 5 years, but throwing it out there without explaining how seems counterproductive to me.  I contacted Bruce Katz with this question, but haven’t heard back from him.  I took 12 pages of notes, so let me know if you”d like anything else in addition to what’s available here & on the Brookings site.

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