The backbone of any effort to transform a city into a City of the Future is economic development. Without it, civic leaders will lack the resources to fund all of the work that is needed to re-imagine their communities. Long-term economic development is built upon three key elements: brand, asset leverage and transportation. Without determining these upfront, any economic development is likely to be haphazard and opportunistic.
Build a brand
Identification of your city’s brand is crucial to gain success moving into the future. Through careful evaluation, city leadership should promote its unique attributes and develop an image that suits its overall objectives. What is it about your city’s environment that makes it unique and special? Where do the best opportunities for growth exist?
For example, the brand of a beautiful coastal city clearly differs from that of an isolated inland industrial city. Therefore the cities have contrasting brands: one wants to attract tourist businesses, the other is likely targeting manufacturers that can leverage natural resources and infrastructure. The sooner your city identifies its brand, the sooner your strategic team can begin driving its economic development agenda.
Leverage assets to drive economic development
All City of the Future initiatives aim to improve quality of life. But sometimes that requires narrowing the scope and analyzing each area of potential economic development on an individual basis. Here are a few fundamental areas of economic activity that deserve a look:
Arts and Entertainment: Citizens need to have positive experiences close to home. Theaters, music, and museums are just a handful of ways to provide exceptional entertainment in a culturally-rewarding manner. A vibrant arts and entertainment district has potential to serve as a catalyst for your city’s economy.
Recreation: Does your city provide safe and accessible ways to relax and have fun? Are parks, golf courses, lakes and other recreation facilities available to your citizens? A strong portfolio of recreation outlets makes your city more appealing to outsiders and should be leveraged in attracting residents and businesses alike.
Commercial: Businesses are the foundation of a municipal economy. Your City of the Future needs to engage in initiatives that entice businesses to setup shop within your borders and also support an environment for start-ups and “mom and pop” shops. A steady influx of new businesses is a prime way to set your city apart from others.
Residential: Healthy neighborhoods and schools are vital to ensuring a prosperous future for your city. Above all else, citizens need to feel taken care of and supported by their city leaders. Administer projects that benefit residential areas of the city and encourage younger generations to remain residents and prospective residents to make the move.
Establish efficient public transit
With establishment of the right brand and a line-up of initiatives in the right areas, a system of city connection should, also, be created. That is not to say that a full redesign of your city’s transportation plan is needed. Rather, the key economic hubs and popular destinations should be strategically located across the city for easy and commonsensical location. Centers of excellence or hubs can be designed using logistics technology tools that allow citizens to travel to all areas of the city in a logical and affordable way. Efficient transit paths will harness your city’s resources and ultimately allow all its components to operate more effectively.
In closing, now is the time to turn a dream into reality. What started as your Vision Story can be successfully extended into a detailed plan of action to get your city on the “right” track for the future. By doing some foundational economic planning early on in your transition into a City of the Future, your citizens can enjoy a profound and unrivaled quality of life through improved economic development.