By James, Sharpe
Nation's Cities Weekly , Vol. 16, No. 9
Mayors and legislators throughout the United States must become global as well as local innovators and thinkers for municipal economic development to succeed in the 21st century. To do less courts continued decline for some or stagnation for even the best positioned cities.
America's cities large and small must redefine their economic development agendas or be left behind in the global competition for jobs and investment. From cultural and educational exchanges, to industrial and financial joint ventures, our nation's cities and towns are at the dawn of a new age of global participation, job opportunity, and economic growth.
We in the City of Newark are blessed with an excellent infrastructure that we believe positions us ideally to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. We are in the middle of the largest consumer market concentration in the United States. We have the largest containership port on the east coast, the fastest growing airport in the region and are served by major rail lines and interstate highways.
By virtue of our outstanding transportation facilities, Newark has the added ability of being able to attract and draw from the regional labor market, as well as its own resident population.
In addition, the largest concentration of universities, hospitals, telecommunications facilities and research centers in New Jersey is housed in Newark.
While the cites assets are impressive, they alone are not sufficient to enable Newark to be a competitive player in the world's marketplace. Even more important is leadership, vision, a viable economic development plan which is based upon accurate evaluation of a city's own assets as well as international markets, and a competent staff to do the job.
Most cities and towns have resources which can be used to plan a global economic initiative. But in order to do this, local elected officials must understand their asset base and the markets with which they want to trade.
One way mayors and local leaders can prepare their cities for global competition is through innovative public/private partnerships. The mayor has the heaviest responsibility to define the mission and put together the collaborations to carry this out. Research must be done on markets and regions, an assessment of local resources must be compiled, and from this a list of prospects for trade and strategic partnerships is generated.
Last year, I had the great privilege and thrill of visiting mainland China, along with a delegation of Newark business leaders. This trade mission was sparked by inquiries from Chinese officials and businesses interested in investing in Newark and was organized by the Metro Newark Chamber'of Commerce.
China was selected for this mission because it has the fastest growing economy and largest consumer market in Asia. The State of New Jersey exports an estimated $66 million in goods annually to China, according to 1990 statistics. The figures also note that an estimated $8 billion in goods are exported to China and Hong Kong via Port Newark each year,
Our visit with governmental and business leaders in such cities as Shanghai, Beijing, and Huzhou also gave us an opportunity to assess their needs and identify trade development opportunities. …