7.10.2010

Global City Bleg


Though Philly lags behind other cosmopolitan US cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami, it is still large enough (1.5 million strong) to contain plenty of people who have roots all over the world. In just the past 30 days, I've had the pleasure of riffing with colleagues of mine who have strong familial and/or commercial ties to practically every part of the globe: South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia. A common theme in these conversations is the sense that Philadelphia, both the geographic location and its municipal government, has more potential than it has so far actualized, in terms of capitalizing on these familial and commercial ties.

Consider the benefits associated with transnational connectivity and multinational density, which I list in stream of consciousness mode: facilitating business deals, encouraging tourism activity, mobilizing attention in moments of crisis, opening up new cultural experiences. We should want more of this, no? If anything, to make daily life more flavorful. Or, if you are more cold-blooded like I am, to increase trade opportunities for the private sector and tax revenues for the public sector.

The aforementioned more cosmopolitan cities are brimming with vibrancy and activity, and that is helping stem some other fiscal or demographic challenges they are facing. What about Philadelphia? What is going to take for us to make the most of the ties we already possess, and to foster even greater and better ones? What can local government do, what can institutions do, what can everyday citizens like you and me do? I know that being a more global city is good, and can even articulate the benefits that accrue from it; but I look to others and ask if anyone knows what steps to take to help make it happen.

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