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Eight new cities are joining an economic development network created by the Global Cities Initiative, our five-year joint project with the Brookings Institution. Launched in 2012, the Global Cities Initiative helps business and civic leaders grow their metropolitan economies by strengthening international connections and competitiveness. GCI activities include producing data and research to guide decisions, fostering practice and policy innovations, and facilitating a peer learning network. This network, the Global Cities Initiative's Exchange, assists metropolitan areas as they develop plans to achieve sustainable growth, first addressing exports and then foreign direct investment. These cities will start their involvement in the Exchange by developing metropolitan export plans in 2015.

These eight cities represent GCI Exchange's 2015 group, the final cohort of the 28-metro-area network. The Brookings Institution selected metro areas for the Exchange through a competitive process based on their readiness and commitment to pursue the Exchange's global competitiveness principles.

As the United States struggles to recover from an outdated model of consumption and debt-driven economic development, traded sectors have emerged as a key to high-quality economic growth. Rapid urbanization in mature and developing markets is creating a new consumer class, and 79 percent of global GDP growth is projected to occur outside the United States between 2013 and 2018. Meanwhile, over 40 percent of job creation comes from existing firm expansion, but only 5 percent of U.S. firms pursue a key method for business expansion—exporting. This global market opportunity paired with the benefits of firm expansion through exports makes it imperative for local economies to recognize their distinctive assets and improve global trade and investment strategies.

Each of the eight cities will be represented in the Exchange by a team of local leaders.

The members of the new GCX group include Baltimore; Fresno, Calif.; Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Philadelphia; Salt Lake City; Seattle; St. Louis. They join Atlanta; Charleston, S.C.; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Indianapolis; Jacksonville, Fla.; Los Angeles; Louisville-Lexington, Ky.; Minneapolis-Saint Paul; Milwaukee; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio; San Diego; Syracuse, N.Y.; Tampa Bay, Fla.; Upstate S.C. representing the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson CSA; and Wichita, Kan., to share best practices as they create and implement their global trade and investment strategies.