Medium Size is Better

A prize for merit still not have been realized, maybe it is only a wish, a hope, an act of trust. Regarding this, we could summarize the decision to award the Nobel Prize to the President of United States, Barack Obama as one of the most discussed issues for the last part of 2009.


Barcelona, Contemporary Museum

Without taking a stand on the issue, one fact seems to stand out: that an individual’s wish to act is more likely to succeed if it enjoys the diplomatic, economic and military backing of a major nation, as for example, the United States. People are the catalyst for change, explains Thomas Friedman, the New York Times foreign affairs columnist and author. And this is what he means by Globalization 3.0, where the first two stages concerned government and business respectively. At this point, to quote the title of his 2005 work, “The World Is Flat”. “The playing field is being leveled” stated Nandan Nilekani in 2004, when he was CEO of Infosys, the second-largest ICT services companies in India. Headquartered in Bangalore, Infosys and many others like it, together with an excellent university system financed by those very companies, have made many cities in India leaders in the supply of IT services to Europe and the United States. What the USA is for Obama, the texture of a city is, for anyone with drive and an awareness of his or skills. However, “medium size cities” – called that because of their economic as well as their urban status – offer more scope compared to places that are already widely-known and well-explored destinations for personal and professional development. That’s because they are less set in their ways. Cities where top-level progress and its opposite co-exist, are fired by this dynamic. Developing cities within developing states are often sources of interesting patterns of growth these days. Parag Khanna, in his book “The Second World. Empires and Inbetterfluence in the New Global Order”, describes this “Second World” as standing between the first and the third. While 30 states are identified by the OECD as belonging to the “First World”, 48 others are classfied as “less developed” countries by the World Bank and categorised as belonging to “the third – or even the fourth” worlds. Khanna explains that at least one hundred nations – and the majority of the world’s population – lie between this two categories, and their future prospects are somewhat uncertain. Development of the “second world” is not going to stop any time soon. Indeed, it is growing apace and currently affects almost all the emerging markets. Chile, Malaysia, Egypt, Georgia, Maghreb and Venezuela, these nations revolve around “attraction spots”, these being either capital – or other large – cities. These “spots” operate under a simple but effective principle: “it’s more rewarding being a bigger fish in a smaller pond”. This principle is the one that the cities of the first world have benefited from.


Berlin, Potsdamer Platz

Barcelona is a striking and paradigmatic example. IHaving lost its role as the top textile producer in the Spanish and the European markets, during the last twenty years the capital of Catalunya has reinvented itself to become the cradle of Spanish fashion. Desigual, Mango, Custo Barcelona, were all founded here. Barcelona has been the launch pad for designers’ becoming known in the world: a start-city that was not a high-point of prêt-à-porter, such as, for example, Milan, Paris or New York. The ability to experiment with new forms, develop intelligence, while benefitting from government support provided young designers with the right ingredients for launching their brands on the international market. Barcelona has now acquired the clout to launch a new fashion trade fair, dubbed The Brandery. This is a personal challenge for the mayor Jordi Hereu, who aims to make it “a point of reference for international commerce in the modern fashion sector”. The development of Barcelona is confirmed also by some other large and small signals: from the recovery of SpanAir with its 24 global destinations, to the choice to clean chewing gum off the sidewalks, through debate about bull-fighting, to discussion on maintaining one’s deep historical roots in a country full of contradictions as vividly “painted” by Alicia Gimenez-Bartlett, the author of well-known detective novels that take place in the streets of Barcelona.

Amman looks to the future, having positioned itself as an point of reference for “connectivity” and ICT. A tenyear year investment program, begun in 1999, has ensured a connectivity rate of 26%, the highest of the region. Money invested in universities (for example the Princess Sumaya University of Technology) and start-up incubators, have made Jordan so attractive that Yahoo this summer acquired, the largest Arabianlanguage online community, which is headquartered in Amman. More, in May 2009, Amman hosted a
session of the World Economic Forum dedicated to the Middle East Countries.

On different fronts, there are two other player cities in the game: Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro. What they have in common is that both have been chosen as sites for important international dates: Cape Town for the Football World Cup 2010 and Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic Games 2016. Both of the cities believe in the entertainment economy, in tourism and in the various factors that typify them: art, culture, music, sports, food, and spare time activities.

It is the “soft power” for a metropolis that has already developed but is still continuing to grow as Berlin, which took advantage of the Football World Cup 2006 to promote “brand Germany”. Taking Berlin as an example, Cape Town is working on taking advantage of the Football World Cup 2010 to fuel South Africa’s economy and push back economic gloom. “The impetus of expenditure and investment in infrastructure for 2010,” points out Cape Town Executive Mayor, Dan Plato, “could not have come at a better time to counteract the effects of the economic slump. While not every individual or suburb of Cape Town will benefit directly from the World Cup, improved facilities, services and infrastructure will benefit all indirectly”. Quality of life is one of the most important points that these cities are developing. This will work alongside connectivity and digitalization, the services related to art, culture, hospitality, and tourism, the factors that make a city easy to live in, all important factors that boost the urban economy – and create job opportunities.


London, Acquatica centre after Olympic Games 2012

The best cities in which to locate a business today
by Elaine Rossal, Associate European Research Group of Cushman & Wakefield
As companies continue to consolidate and restructure their operations, being in the most efficient location can have an overriding impact on the immediate success of their business in achieving its business objectives. Whilst it is difficult to make generalizations as to where the optimum business locations across Europe currently are, Cushman & Wakefield undertake an annual survey of Europe’s major business cities, European Cities Monitor, that is conducted since 1990. The survey ranks 34 of Europe’s largest cities against a number of criterias considered best for business and includes an overall ranking of which city is the best overall business city. The interviewees are Senior Managers or Board Directors, with responsibility for location. All interviews are conducted by telephone usually in June/July by mother tongue interviewers. From this research Cushman & Wakefield produces the overall ranking of which city is considered by the sample to be the ‘best city in which to locate a business today’. The survey highlights the fact that there are a number of key location factors that make a city a great business location and human resources issues are critical to any business success. The workforce is the main investment and the cities that are perceived as having the best qualified staff are able to attract headquarter functions of larger corporates and usually have a successful track record of attracting multi-national corporations. This can help increase the reputation of a city and can encourage a transfer of workers and attract further talent. Costs associated with wages and benefits are important decision criterias for most industries and despite EU convergence of the cost of labour still varies considerably in member countries, and variations in compulsory social security contributions can make the differentiation more marked. Labour costs are determined by a number of factors, including the demand and supply of labour, flexibility of the labour market, the cost and standards of living in a city, benefits and taxation. In a globalised world, language competences increasingly become the competitive edge of companies, of individuals and of local entities. When asked to comment upon languages spoken in the European Cities Monitor, the assessment does not reflect just the learning of languages, but the ability of the working population to speak a variety of languages well. Those cities that are perceived to provide a multilingual workforce offer a mix of mother tongue speakers and those who speak the native language fluently as a second language. The top 3 cities in the European Cities Monitor have consistently been London, Paris and Frankfurt but below this top three, a number of cities have seen a gradual improvement in particular Barcelona, Madrid, Munich and Berlin. The survey highlights the fact that there is a wide spread of cities that perform well on specific location factors and these cities are increasingly in competition with each other to attract inward investment and to carve out a reputation for specific business types.


Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Winter 2009