How cities can better attract investment

Professor Michael Parkinson CBE, Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for Civic Engagement at the University of Liverpool, has said that in an increasingly globalised world, cities have to stand out from the competition to be investable and attract investment.

“A city must differentiate itself by playing to its strengths, and celebrate its differences, in an authentic way. For it is not just the tangible, economic assets of a city that count. The unique qualities of a place that distinguish it from other cities domestically and internationally also matter,” he said.

“In a global world, place quality becomes more, not less, important economically.”

Professor Parkinson said that, broadly speaking, there are two kinds of different but related investment concerns—the economic fundamentals of the place and its place qualities.

“For a city to be successful it must satisfy both the economic and the mood analysis of a potential investor. Striking this balance is not easy, but it is achievable for a city with the right approach,” he said.

“We know that people tend to move to cities for their careers and job opportunities. But often they will stay because of the quality of life in the city. And that can and should become as critical part of the city’s branding that will in turn help reinforce a positive view of the city and differentiate it from its competitors.”

According to Professor Parkinson, a powerful city brand can be used to promote the location and establish a presence internationally to attract investment.

“Places with the assets of a good environment, distinctive architecture, cultural facilities and quality housing stock help drive up land values which in turn makes private sector investment and development more likely,” he said.

“This improves the scale and quality of city regions’ physical offer–office, retail, leisure, residential–which in turn encourages economic growth.”

Professor Parkinson concluded that the traditional economic fundamentals still matter to investors and therefore to cities.

“The primary forces that drive investors—value, profit, jobs—remain important. But quality, authenticity and diversity are becoming ever more important in a homogenised world,” he said.

“The best advice you can give to cities is the same advice you can give your children—just try to be your very best own self.”

Professor Parkinson’s full article is available here.