World Class Cities - it's the people, stupid!
"The fact is that when we're talking about Cities we're talking about people," said Andrew Carter, Deputy Chief Executive, Centre for Cities when speaking at Birmingham MadeMe Design Expo in June.
Cities were the greatest human invention. They were a great way of sharing, collaborating, competing.
There had been some debate about whether through technology developments the world would become flatter, but in fact it had become spikier as cities were in general attracting much more activity to them. But the 'range of spikiness' varied greatly.
"Turns out that geography matters more in modern economies. Being able to exchange ideas, innovation and share new purposes and ideas."
Another feature of modern economies was that 'the more you learn the more you earn'.
Workers in cities were more productive- up to 10% more productive. Cities had become more important than they were historically, but there was no divine right.
"There has been the re-emergence of Chicago, Berlin and Barcelona. But Detroit and Milan have been declining competitively - Milan moving from top five to top 10 and declining."
Why did some Cities succeed and some fail? It varied as they all tended to differ in their paths to success.
However, five lessons were emerging -
1) Tilt policy playing field towards cities. National government needs to give preference to Cities over other places
2) Being open to ideas wherever they originate. National and local policy needs to recognise this. Do we celebrate the fact that we're open enough?
3) Unrelenting obsession with education is critical. Going back as far as 1901 and looking at the skills profiles of cities you can predict the success of cities to an 80% degree of accuracy
4) Physical environment needs to incentivise and encourage interactions. It was important that we were not segmenting, but bringing people together
5) Enjoyment - people come into cities to live and consume different aspects of life
What does this mean for Birmingham?
1) City Centre - how you plan and integrate this is important.
We need to be developing a 'hub and spoke' approach to regional governance. Stewart Towe, Chairman of the Black Country LEP (BCLEP) had recognised the role of the BCLEP as an important spoke working with the 'hub' of Birmingham City.
2) City region connections: the difficulty of getting around any city is a competitive problem
3) Skills profiles - more graduates would be increasingly important to future competitiveness.