March 29, 2012 - From the April, 2012 issue

Mayor Richard Daley: The Vital Role of Metropolitan Regions in Boosting Exports

TPR offers the following excerpt from former Mayor of Chicago Richard Daley at USC for the Global Cities Initiative on March 21—a joint project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase. Mayor Daley focuses on the steps major US cities must take to compete for jobs, business, and branding at an international scale, pointing to his efforts as Mayor to revive the city’s economic horizon. Through education, infrastructure, and public-private partnerships, cities can prepare for an interconnected world.


“New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago compete with cities like London, Shanghai, and Rio de Janeiro, which are aggressively expanding their business markets, attracting jobs, and building new infrastructure each day.” -Mayor Richard Daley

The Global Cities Initiative (GCI) is a five-year project whose main goal is to equip leaders of cities and metropolitan regions, like Los Angeles, with new tools to strengthen their regional opportunities and economies in order to better manage and compete in this global economy. 

The GCI has three parts. First, we’re helping local and regional leaders identify new opportunities to build on their global assets by providing them with new research for the areas of exports, advanced manufacturing, foreign direct investment, freight flows, and immigration policy. 

Second, we are bringing together local and regional leaders to come up with the ideas for taking advantage of the new global opportunities so we can expand the global reach of our economies. These ideas will be based on best practices and policy innovations from around the world. But most importantly they will be based on decisions that have to be made as quickly as possible in cities and regions dealing with the global economy. 

Third, we are developing a global network of cities strung in global partnerships, creating new opportunities for trade. 

Los Angeles was a natural choice for the launch of the Global Cities Initiative. In recent years LA has been a great example of a city that is looking closely and boldly at building on its global assets and taking advantage of the new opportunities on the global market. Under Mayor Villaraigosa, leadership, the government, businesses, not-for-profits, and civic leaders are working together to move their plans forward and, most importantly, to make decisions on all the plans they move forward. That is exactly what the global initiative is about; it will be the focus of today’s forum. 

Going forward, we will work with other cities and metropolitan areas to promote actions so they too can see all the opportunities offered by the new global economy and so that they may better position themselves to take advantage of these opportunities and to reap long-term benefits for their communities. Cities and metropolitan regions are the drivers of this economy, and they are where highest concentration of people live and business gets done. Cities and metropolitan regions are the key to our nation’s future in the world. 

Some people may ask why cities and metropolitan areas should care about going global. The answer is that their future will depend on that. The transition to the global economy has changed the elements of what it takes to be a successful city. In the 20th century, cities competed against each other for people, jobs, and business. Each tried to create a better school system, better transit, and sometimes tried to even steal jobs from other cities. A world of globalization scared people, but a global economy changed all of that. The US cities no longer compete with each other; instead they compete with cities around the world. 

New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago compete with cities like London, Shanghai, and Rio de Janeiro, which are aggressively expanding their business markets, attracting jobs, and building new infrastructure each day. Cities everywhere also face a whole new level of competition. From rapid urbanization, new mega cities of 20-30 million people are being built in China, India, and other emerging markets.

For the first time in modern history, the majority of the world population now lives in urban areas. In the last fifteen to twenty years you’ve seen urbanization grow so quickly throughout India, China, and the third world. These changes require cities and regions to think in new ways. In the 21st century, people and businesses are mobile. They can move anywhere in the world, and they do.  People move to places where they are offered the best opportunities for their future, both personally and professionally. Businesses will move to places where they can be the most successful, in and outside the United States. 

Cities that ignore the reality will face a dim economic future. Today a city looking to succeed in the global economy needs a number of things. They need good economic institutions that can educate and train residents to compete in the global economy and attract talent from other places. They need a business climate where corporate leaders want to locate their headquarters and facilities, and they need a business-friendly environment willing to make decisions on behalf of those businesses. Cities need upgraded transportation infrastructure for the movement of people and goods and the expansion of global trade. They need a focus on long-term sustainability of natural resources like water and open space. And finally they require strong relationships around the world to create new opportunities for ongoing success. 

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Perhaps what is most important about the transition to the global economy is the opportunity it presents for the success of nations and cities and for the growth of the United States economy. When I was mayor, transforming Chicago into a global city was my goal and my passion. Right before I was elected in 1989, local newspapers called Chicago a city on the brink. They said it had no economic future and predicted it would become an irrelevant backwater where no one wanted to live and do business. When I left office last year, Chicago was recognized as a top leader in the global economy, as pointed out earlier by the President. Foreign Policy magazine ranked Chicago number six on a 2010 list of the nation’s 50 top global cities. MasterCard International ranked Chicago as the 5th most influential city in the Global Economy in 2008. Standard and Poors ranked Chicago among the world’s top ten economic centers. Almost 30 fortune 500 companies have located their headquarters in Chicago. We attracted new businesses and new investments from many parts of the world. Chicago continues to be the nation’s third largest city. 

Why didn’t the gloomy predictions come through? We changed and reinvented ourselves. In the transition to the global economy, we focused on building a great city. We formed partnerships between government and business. The purpose was to raise Chicago’s profile among the world and to attract foreign direct investments and more global businesses like Boeing. Through partnerships with the airline and rail industry we launched major upgrades to our transportation infrastructure to support global travel demands and the needs of people and businesses. These upgrades include a $6.6 billion plan to modernize O’Hare International Airport and plans to significantly upgrade Chicago’s freight rail system. We completed a major expansion of Midway Airport, improved transit systems, and launched efforts to bring high-speed rail to our city and region. 

With funding from our local corporate community, over $250 million, we built Millennium Park, a showcase for art, music, architecture, landscape design, and outdoor activities that boosts international tourism and left a surge of economic development in and around the downtown area. 

I knew our public schools needed to produce graduates with skills to compete with students from other countries who are prepared for the jobs of the global economy. We partnered with many local businesses to invest millions of dollars to improve math, science, and technology education to better prepare students for the global jobs. We’ve launched a new program in Chicago public schools to teach students to speak the languages of the future: Chinese, Arabic, and Russian. When I left office we were offering world language programs in 11 languages, and more than 100,000 students of all grade levels are participating in over 400 schools around the city. More students were learning Chinese in our Chicago public school system than any other public school system in the nation. 

As mayor, I also made a priority of working with mayors from other parts of the world so I could learn from them, strengthen our global relationships, and create new global opportunities. We expanded the number of Chicago’s sister cities from six to twenty-eight. I hosted the five annual Richard Daley Global Forums, through which almost 200 mayors or more from around the world came to Chicago to discuss common urban challenges and to identify opportunities for collaboration. I also formed coalitions of mayors from around Chicago and the Midwest, including the metropolitan mayor caucus that included mayors from Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois. 

These groups work on important regional issues like transportation and water, enabling us to better compete with other regions of the United States and around the world. Participating successfully in the global economy is the key to our thriving city and region. I know from my experience that creating a global city or region is not easy. It takes vision, innovative spirit, a global perspective, the ability to see new opportunities, a willingness to take risk, hard work, and decision-making. It takes a lot of hard work, and it cannot be done overnight. 

The government can’t do it alone. The era of declining assistance to cities from the federal and state government requires new resources, thinking outside the box, and thinking of public-private partnerships where money can come from the private sector to support the infrastructure work of cities and states. It requires collaboration with the private sector and other civic leaders and institutions so the region as a whole can benefit. That is why the Global Cities Initiative is so important. This initiative involves global and regional leaders from the government, private sector, and other civic institutions, all working together on new opportunities and on concrete actions to expand the global reach of cities and regions. 

Supported by the research at Brookings and, of course, the resources of JPMorgan Chase, an initiative like this couldn’t come at a better time. Especially in today’s economy, many cities and regions want smart partners to help strengthen their futures. I am pleased that JPMorgan Chase invited me to be a part of this exciting opportunity. 

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© 2021 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.