Forms of drawing power25

Political power implies assessing the number, level and importance of legislative functions or government institutions based in a city or region. If these only relate to a city and region, then the position is weak. The more national and international institutions based in the city, the better. For example, Leicester and Nottingham in Britain were equal regional powerhouses in the East Midlands. Over the last five years, however, the balance has tipped to Nottingham, even though Leicester is more conveniently placed for London. Nottingham always had the regional broadcasting authority. This became a point of leverage to attract the regional strategic economic authority, the regional arts council and regional headquarters of national companies, many of whom moved from Leicester. This inexorably reinforced Nottingham's power. Perhaps most irksome to the city of Leicester was the renaming of East Midlands airport as Nottingham-East Midlands, even though it is in Leicestershire.

At the global level the stakes are even higher as cities battle to attract institutions such as the European Central Bank, which Frankfurt won over London. Getting an institution to base itself in a city is more sustainable than being only fashionable. Yet being fashionable plays its part in getting on the radar screen in the first place and perhaps attracting the key institution. But it can be hit and miss. As Henry Ford said, '50 per cent of my advertising works great - I just don't know which 50 per cent.' The same is true for intangibles such as image.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the different areas of power, and political and economic power often reinforce one another. The economic indicators are well known, such as the value-added created per employee, companies headquartered in the city, the presence of key research centres, and international trade fairs, events and so on.

Cultural power involves the assessment of the status of various institutions in the city, such as museums, theatres and art galleries, and where they fall in the national and international hierarchy. Of most importance is the content of these containers for culture. The container itself, even if it is an iconic building, is not enough. In addition there is a trendiness or hipness factor, where quality of restaurants, nightlife and overall design should be assessed. This is largely judged by peer-group assessments, food writing, for example, or through the views of the streetwise.

Cities can accrue power and desirability by capturing a territory that others also want to occupy. This is where quality of life and environmental and sustainability power come in. Yet to gain from such an asset, it needs to be known about - tangible, self-evident and transparent. A range of cities have built reputations on these that create downstream spin-offs. These softer issues are now central to the quality of life and competitiveness surveys of organizations such as Mercer's, the Economist Intelligence Unit or Jones, Lang, and Lasalle's World Winning Cities programme. They help companies assess where to locate. Usually many Nordic cities as well as places like Zurich and Geneva come top. The city of Freiburg is instructive. Its strong environmental profile - car use has remained stable over the last two decades, despite growth in the population - has attracted major eco-research institutes, so the city is an attractor of resources and talent in this sphere. This reinforces its position, as do initiatives such as the solar region project or Vauban environmental district, where local job creation and local sourcing are important.

Measuring the performance and competitiveness of a city across various dimensions is problematic because good performance according to one indicator may mean poor performance in another. A good economic indicator may cause a cultural, social or environmental problem. Economic vitality causes large movements of people. So the relevant cultural indicator may be levels of tolerance or interaction between differing groups. A social indicator such as levels of crime may require an assessment of the costs of crime to be set against an economic growth figure. The same is true for environmental damage.

Within an overall assessment, competitiveness is a key criterion because it creates the resilience a city needs. Being competitive is essentially about doing something well and better than somewhere else. Its significance is growing because of the increasing interna tional mobility of investment and skills. Gifted and talented people are attracted to such places, because they have vitality and they help individuals achieve more. Statistically, if a place has more talented people than somewhere else, it will perform better across all dimensions. Therefore the talent agenda is rising to the fore and a primary indicator for a city should be its talent churn, which is the balance between talented people moving in and out (who or what is talent will be subject to debate and is context-driven). If it is positive, a city is doing well. For example, one expects and wants clever locals to leave their city, to broaden horizons and learn about the wider world, but a city also wants them to return or, if not them, then talented people from elsewhere. Part of talent is the capacity for creative thinking which harnesses and maximizes competitive advantages. Economically, competitiveness is expressed in terms of profitability, levels of investment, technological innovation, access to venture capital, the quality and skills of the workforce, how well the city is networked at a human and technological level, and the rank and status of local firms as well as their products and services locally, nationally and internationally. Socially, it concerns the quality of the relationships between social groups (including race relations) as well as the achievements of a city's voluntary sector. Environmentally, it is a city's sustainability agenda. Culturally, it concerns the rank and status of educational and cultural institutions and activities, and particularly how they are seen by peer groups.

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