Cities are like magnets. Just as magnets can either attract or repel, so can cities. A city with a strong magnetic-pull draws in new residents, visitors and business investment for the benefit of all.
Large global cities such as London, New York and Hong Kong have a worldwide magnetic pull. For centuries they have drawn in people from all over the world. But the world doesn’t just consist of global cities. In the developed world alone, there are over 200 major cities.
In developed economies, it is important for countries to have economically strong and well-functioning second-tier (non-capital) cities. Smaller cities can offer a different pace and quality of life than the hustle and bustle of global and large capital cities. Yet they still provide the educational, cultural and occupational opportunities people seek.
In the UK, second-tier cities find it difficult to compete against the super-strength pull of London, despite the fact that some have invested significant sums of money on both physical enhancements and infrastructure developments. For example, old docks have been refurbished and filled with restaurants, bars and clubs, and city centres have been filled with new expensive developments. And in many cases, the city’s populations grew. Yet the reality of the last five years is that the economies of most cities have shrunk at a rate faster than the UK average, despite their growing populations.
So what can be done to help second-tier cities reinvent themselves and improve their offer? How can they increase their magnetic pull? And is it possible to transform a negative magnet city into a positive one?
We explored nine developed cities around the world that have successfully flipped their magnetic orientation. These cities once repelled people and were stuck in a seemingly problematic cycle of decline, they undertook bold experiments and huge risks to reinvent themselves. Today, they are fast-growing cities with economic growth that in many instances outstrips the national average.
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This article represents the views of the author only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG in the UK.