Urban business

Competitive Cities: A New Entrepreneurial Paradigm in Spatial Development
City managers are important economic players, handling as they do billion-dollar budgets and thousands of employees. In its second territorial review in a series on competitive cities, the OECD explains that in the last few decades, city managers have recognised that inner city problems could not be resolved by throwing more money at them.
Rather, a pro-active, entrepreneurial approach is needed, with new industry and new jobs, “to regenerate the economic infrastructure...to attract inward investment and mobile talent”.Good corporate sense is essential, says Competitive Cities, explaining that modern cities need to become as competitive as the most successful corporations. One reason is globalisation, with its rising immigration and environmental challenges, and the constant battle for investment, people and services.Urban entrepreneurship underpins this model and it means promoting the city as a product in the corporate sense, developing a business plan and a marketing strategy, using a strategist and product designer. The splashiest reflection of this is the trend toward city branding, creating an innovative, dynamic urban image, often profitably accomplished through tourism, culture and sports. For instance, hosting the Olympic Games has polished and publicised Athens, Barcelona, Atlanta and Salt Lake City.Waterfronts and riverbanks have been renovated with positive economic effects in cities like Baltimore, Barcelona, London and Sydney. The thirst and competition for investment and revenue partly explains the current drive to open new casinos in the UK in a bid to emulate Las Vegas’s success. Vienna’s Museums Quarter has also inspired other cities, as have Paris’s fashion salons. Dublin’s Temple Bar shows how old neglected city centre districts could be reinvigorated with good policies. However, the book warns of the trend toward a global “blandscape”, where everywhere seems like everywhere else. A city’s allure resides deeper than its concrete, and the report notes that city managers need to ensure that good business policy does not supplant good social policy. In the global market, social and environmental features are essential elements to make up a liveable, competitive city.ISBN 9789264022409©OECD Observer No 261, May 2007

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