This fall, I participated in the first-ever, two-day City Lab Summit in New York City. Hosted by The Atlantic, The Aspen Institute and Bloomberg, the summit engaged the world’s urban leaders to discuss urban incubation and how cities fuel innovation for half the world’s population.
Attendees, including 30 mayors, engaged in continuous discussions ranging from technology, energy, architecture, work, politics, and the arts to data privacy. While I may have been the only Pittsburgh and tech association representative, the work done in this city and region finds common threads with other cities. The visions of every city are uncannily similar. We all want to be the best place to live and—there are aggressive strategies on which we should all be focused.
I left NYC after those two days, wondering if the immersion on the topics would leave me rejuvenated, proud to be part of Pittsburgh’s resurgence and prompted to invigorate new perspective.
As we close out 2013 (seriously? 2013?), my reaction to that time talking with people who are passionate about Detroit, Chicago, Memphis, Cleveland, NYC, Santa Monica, Seattle, Portland, Raleigh, Milwaukee, and more, is that there are several non-negotiable commonalities as we converge into a new year, as well as we welcome our new mayor, Bill Peduto, in January 2014.
While I was not necessarily rejuvenated, I had more clarity through the perspectives shared at this summit. Here are my operative findings that I believe ring true, for Pittsburgh, as guiding imperatives for the year ahead:
Being a sustainable city is no longer aspirational, it’s a requirement which must be embedded in the fabric of a metro region. It’s not a fad.
Being global is an imperative. It is evidenced in a city’s scorecard than includes diversity, trade, celebrations, local food establishments and demographics of corporate / civic leadership. These indicators should be regularly measured and disseminated.
Every city is supporting, in some shape, the incubator / accelerator entrepreneurship movement and most agree the demand for follow-along capital is waning.
Local mass transit is crucial. The U.S. preoccupation with car ownership is receding for people now exiting college.
A mayor’s role in building international business relationships is a core part of the job in building the economy. Doing business locally is equally as critical. Buy local, sell everywhere.
The next generation of our workforce wants to live in a place that has density and multitude of options for recreation, living arrangements and work. Work is not the ultimate attraction.
The rise of places with growth in music and local food establishments result when strong technology innovators are abundant. It may be an effective leading indicator of a metro area’s growth and appeal.
Tax incentives for businesses—both new and legacy—remains a feverish policy debate. But tax relief for new businesses seems to be prevalent.
Reliance on federal government for operational support has caused emergence of regional governments to build stronger local and regional tactics to build prosperity. Thriving regions have built durable public-private partnerships, which are locally focused with many strong global relationships.
The evidence of technology clusters as fertile ground for growth remains a focus for cities, but most agree that the mash up of ideas across disciplines and expertise is really the next generation of opportunity.
Helping universities commercialize technologies in research institutions is community work. Innovation in cities with research universities requires active community-based strategies to drive new company formation. Universities cannot successfully support the birth of new companies by themselves, they need strong & active civic and corporate partners.
Rebuilding communities decimated by business losses and poverty impact an entire city as well as a state. Neighborhoods must be salvaged and reborn.
Ensuring excellence in public education for K-12 is a priority. Poor public schools impede talent attraction, which severely impacts reputation.
A diverse arts community, which embraces traditional and non-traditional genre, is pivotal in talent attraction and global reputation.
A toast to all of you for the holiday season. Wishes of good health, prosperity and friendship.