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Q: What impact has the economic downturn had on the metropolitan economy?
Bruce Katz: After the downturn, cities and metropolitan areas realized they had to go back to basics. Pre-recession they were focused on what we would call the consumption economy — home building, coffee chains, and sports stadia. Post-recession, they’ve really begun to focus on those things that drive consumption — innovation, production, exports, foreign direct investment and investments in infrastructure. So, they really have begun to focus on leveraging their own distinct position in the global economy through smart and strategic investments.
Q: How can cities make smarter economic development decisions?
Bruce Katz: We have 100 metropolitan areas that really power our economy forward. They all have really distinct economic profiles — what they make, the services they provide, what they trade, who they trade with. Buffalo is not like Boston. San Diego is not like Syracuse. In the great words of Dolly Parton: “find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Cities should invest in those things that will really power their distinct economy forward — in some places that might be an investment in a port or an airport. Everywhere it will require an investment in skills but it needs to be really customized to the kind of economy you have.
Q: How can cities become strong global competitors?
Bruce Katz: U.S. metros not only need to grow more jobs to make up the jobs they lost during the recession, they need to grow better jobs — jobs that pay decent wages, provide decent benefits. Many of those jobs are going to be in the STEM economy: science, technology, engineering, and math. Those are the kind of the jobs we desperately need in the U.S. so that both places and people prosper and thrive.
Q: Why is San Diego a great example of a metropolitan area succeeding with these new approaches?
Bruce Katz: San Diego exemplifies the metropolitan revolution. It’s got a great platform for a productive, innovative and sustainable economy. They’re attracting life sciences and biotech, telecom, and clean technology, because they have a great base of innovative companies and talented workers and advanced research institutions. A lot of this was intentional. Individuals, CEOs, major philanthropists came together and made smart bets for the future of their region —attracting talented workers and growing talented workers from within through training. You don’t attract investment from around the world unless you are really good at what you do, and that’s the San Diego story, as it is in many parts of the United States. They sharpen their distinctive edge in the global economy and then they push goods or services abroad or attract investment from elsewhere.
The second thing about San Diego is they collaborate to compete. It’s not government against business. It’s not business against universities. It’s all of them coming together to power the region forward. San Diego is the 17th largest metropolitan area in the U.S., but when you look at what matters — talented workforce, patents and other signs of innovation — they’re consistently in the top five or the top ten. San Diego is punching above its weight, and that’s because these different sector’s institutions are working together.
The Global Cities Initiative is a five-year collaboration between the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase that aims to help leaders in U.S. metropolitan areas reorient their economies toward greater engagement in world markets. The Initiative aims to equip business, civic and government leaders with the information, policy ideas and connections they need to help their metropolitan areas thrive in the global economy. The Global Cities Initiative is helping city and metropolitan leaders become more globally fluent by providing an in-depth, data-driven look at their regions' standings on crucial global economic measures, highlighting best policy and practice innovations from around the world and, through the Global Cities Exchange, developing and implementing regional strategies to boost global trade and investment.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. is a proud corporate partner of the Global Cities Initiative and fully supports its work.
UN State of World Cities report
 MetroPolicy: Shaping a New Federal Partnership for a Metropolitan Nation, The Brookings Institution, 2008