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 During his tenure as Mayor of New York City, Michel Bloomberg often pointed out that any city’s socio-economic condition can only be elevated and sustained if the city is competitive. During his tenure as Mayor of New York City, Michel Bloomberg often pointed out that any city’s socio-economic condition can only be elevated and sustained if the city is competitive. Featured
10 August 2017 Posted by 

VIEWPOINT: NOTHING TRIVIAL ABOUT IT

Just who leads our cities?
IAN MACFARLANE
I READ with interest Jamie Briggs’ recent article Our City Challenge (WSBA July edition).
 
In my view, this article articulated a key challenge facing any city in the 21st Century.
 
The paradigms, processes, structures established in the previous century are woefully inadequate. The fundamental needs for cities to be livable and competitive drives us into an unchartered world; one where cities are probably more important than nations and roles typically assigned to Federal/ State governments are devolved. 
 
Just who leads the city in this century’s race is not a trivial question.
 
It seems to me that the huge state, federal and private sector investment currently underway in western Sydney has a purpose; arguably not just to accommodate the additional one million people projected to arrive by 2030, nor to ensure that the west provides the reservoir of commuting labor for Sydney’s CBD businesses, but rather to ensure a sustainable, self-sufficient metropolis.
 
In western Sydney’s case, given the region will house some 800,000 new residents by 2030 (that is 65,000 incremental per year) the gross regional product needs to grow by some 30% over the next 12 years.
 
This is just to maintain the current socio-economic condition. Arguably a challenge that cannot alone be overcome solely by a vastly enhanced infrastructure.
 
During his tenure as Mayor of New York City, Michel Bloomberg often pointed out that any city’s socio-economic condition can only be elevated and sustained if the city is competitive; a state which rests almost exclusively in its capacity to attract the people who and the investment that can make it competitive.
 
To me the serious question is: Who is responsible for orchestrating competitive (people) dynamic of western Sydney’s growth plan? Building it, can only ever be one part of the strategy. Without attracting talented people we probably don’t have a plan. 
 
Who is going to make sure that the precinct can and does attract the mix of people central to its future? This is a question, I have asked many times; always eliciting the same response: someone else.
 
I believe this points to a very real challenge. Western Sydney has been given a unique opportunity, one that probably won’t come again.
 
It seems to me that via the governments (both State and Federal) taxpayers have invested substantially in the region’s future. It is now up to western Sydney itself to leverage the confidence shown in it, by developing a strong socio-economic metropolis.
 
The one thing I have noticed, in my international travels, is that are several infrastructure projects which have failed to deliver; primarily because they were not able to attract the talent (human capital) required to populate the facilities that were built. Conversely successful cities do the opposite.
 
From Bristol, to Glasgow, San Diego, Austin and Prague, the task of attracting talented people is not left to chance. 
 
These cities have forged a narrative centred on Lifestyle, Talent, Tolerance and Technology (LTTT). Each city harnessing the collective strengths of their universities, private sectors, and local governments to deliver on each of the (LTTT) dimensions. Importantly, it is achieved informally and not via traditional civic leadership models.
 
In each case, there is a widely-held belief and vision focused on competitiveness and lifestyle; little interference between sectors but a uniting vision and discrete but effective co-operation to ensure talent and human capital acquisition and retention. 
 
The approach has solicited action and seen the rise of local, multi-funded organisations to facilitate and secure the objectives and cohesion required.
 
Interestingly, this common vision does not emerge from exhausting rounds of consultation nor a human strategy development process; rather an understanding by all local sectors that they have an interdependency; one that rests upon obligations and accountability to the city’s residents.
 
I would submit that time is not on western Sydney’s side. With the promise of a glowing future, the tide of arrivals has already commenced; the obligations local entities and sectors have for executing the human dynamic of the strategy has already been set and is well past GO!
 
Ian Macfarlane is MD of Strategetic consultants; a consultancy specialising in city marketing. He and his team have been engaged by Western Sydney Business Connection to develop and implement the region’s visitor strategy.


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