Showing posts with label cities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cities. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Streets of Gold or Pathways to Poverty: Reviving America's Cities

Streets of gold look a little more like pathways to poverty. American cities have been on the decline for decades as investments diverted from urban areas to emerging countries that rolled out the red carpet. The infrastructure that was built when American cities were at the height of their economic might is still mostly intact waiting for visionary investors. Getting investment interest and better city governance can lead to mutual growth for business and job-hungry residents if the two can come to a mutual understanding.

Pick any major city in the country and follow its historic rise and fall. You may notice that as people moved to the city, built homes, and invested their resources these collections of people grew in wealth and influence. The collective action of small and large investors created a synergy of growth that pushed profit margins to higher levels. Money, government, and people had a mutual self-interest in development.

As international competition rose, technology changed, and poor government policy stagnated these cities; they became ghost lands that are a pale comparison to their previous glory. Where opportunity flourished a few decades ago, some cities have grown dilapidated virtual prisons. The poorer a family was, the more likely they were stuck in a cycle of poverty. American men, women, and children were left behind.

Bleakness doesn’t need to be the norm. Cities that still retain their basic infrastructure are ripe for renewed development that not only produces higher returns on investment (ROI) but offers new opportunities for residents. When opportunity grows, hope also grows, and new economic life is born with it. The marriage of investors and government  into pro-growth policies can nurse new opportunities.

Consider the mass investment draws to places like Eastern Europe, India, China, and other emerging nations where red tape restrictions are little but returns are high. American cities offer many of these same opportunities as the low cost of buildings, motivated work force, and reliable infrastructure found in combinations will grow once the right capital levers are applied.

Stakeholders will need to look at the global market and existing local competencies to determine where the best investment growth potential can be realized. When capitalists engage in pack investments and create spawning clusters of business activities to capitalize on existing competencies and infrastructure, growth is not far over the horizon. Economic wastelands can become investment wonderlands with a little good old fashion spit shine.

Many proposals such as new recreation centers, additional funding, tax allocations, etc...have been tried at one time or another. They were short-lived because they were not profitable and often came with long-term commitments with difficult to measure results. Building investment hubs fixes the foundations of poverty that lead to better housing, additional tax bases, better education and more community support.

The problem isn’t so much that investors are not willing to invest in these cities but that awareness is lacking, and local government is often short-sighted in their policy development that inadvertently restricts future opportunities. Revamping the way we think about investments, government, and education/training helps to ensure that struggling cities look more like diamonds in the rough. Enlightened government starts where partisan politics ends.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Branding Clusters and Cities

Economic development is an important part of keeping the nation moving forward on its economic and social goals. The way in which clusters and cities are branded is important for helping its citizens understand their place within it all while helping people of other places formalize a concept of the area. A paper by Brian Crombie discusses the benefits of branding cities and clusters for greater growth (2011).

Clusters are branded in much the same way as products and services. Branding can apply to any mass communication that include companies, political parties and nations to create success on the market (O’Shaughnessy & O’Shaughnessy, 2000). Branding is a process of creating greater awareness of the offerings of an area. Such brands should do the following (Crombie, 2011):

-Target opportunities in high growth sectors such as life sciences, sustainable technology, life sciences, financial resources or advanced technology.
-Create a supportive business environment.
-Provide a brand that attracts business, investments and jobs.

A strong brand is, “distinctive by its positioning relative to the competition, and by its personality, which comprises a unique combination of functional attributes and symbolic values” (Kavarvztiz, 2004, p. 65). It provides an extra nudge to ensure people are aware of its businesses, cluster, and opportunities.

Brands should give a name and image to the social system and social capital within the area (O’Shaughnessy & O’Shaughnessy, 2000). People should be able to formalize what an area stands for and what it can provide on different planes such as core competencies, its people, and its lifestyle. When done well it creates a total image of the area that can be useful for helping people believe in that brand.

Each cluster and city has an image. Some images are well known while others are not known at all. Each brand should accurately reflect the area but also push to enhance those aspects that are most beneficial for growth. When people can formalize the image of an area and have adequate information to understand that area they are more likely to invest, grow businesses, and train people around that image.

Crombie, B. (2011). Branding cities and clusters for economic development. ISM Journal of International Business, 1 (3). 

Kavaratzis, M. (2004), From City Marketing to City Branding: Towards a Theoretical Framework for
Developing City Brands. Journal of Place Branding, 1

O’Shaughnessy, J. & O’Shaughnessy, N. (2000). Treating the nation as a brand: some neglected issue. Journal of Macromarketing, 20 (56).