Cities of Opportunity

The collaboration between PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Partnership for New York City that developed Cities of Opportunity began seven years ago in the wake of 9/11. The enormous impact of 9/11 on companies and citizens caused a reassessment of what needed to be done to keep New York-- and, by extension, other cities like it-- vibrant engines of a globalizing economy.

What direction will cities go in years to come? What key ingredients will be required to keep them strong? Which cities are actually doing things correctly, and what can be learned?

PwC and the Partnership joined to answer these questions. Both organizations hold important stakes in the healthy growth of cities. The Partnership for New York City is a network of business leaders dedicated to enhancing the economy of the five boroughs of New York City and to maintaining the city's position as the center of world commerce, finance and innovation. PricewaterhouseCoopers is a partnership itself— but one with a strong presence and mutual self-interest in the health of the 770 cities in which it operates around the world.

This second edition of our report is significantly more ambitious than the first, extending from 11 cities and 32 variables in our 2007 study to 20 cities and 51 variables now.

Three key factors governed the cities we chose:

  • Capital market centers. Many of the cities included are hubs of commerce, communications and culture. But all are financial capitals of their region- meaning each plays an important role not only locally but also as a vital part of a globalizing economic fabric.
  • Distributed over a broad geographic sampling. While each city is a center of finance and commerce in its own region and in many cases the world, collectively the 20 cities form a representative international distribution.
  • Balanced between mature and emerging economies. Twelve mature cities and eight newly growing ones are included. While debates may continue to simmer on which established city is the leading financial or cultural capital, the real headlines will be made as the world continues to globalize and new centers rival the prosperity and power of the traditional leaders.

Some intuitively compelling cities were left off the list because they failed to meet all three criteria. For instance, Bangalore is a center of technology, Atlanta is a headquarters city, but neither is a true financial capital.

In terms of the data indicators selected, we constructed a robust sampling of variables, each of which had to be: relevant; consistent across the sample; publicly available and collectible; current; free of skewing from local nuances; and truly reflective of a city's quality or power. 

These criteria eliminated cities like Milan and Zurich, which lacked some of the data needed.

Some variables, like the number of Wi-Fi zones, that once looked promising as representing the strength of a city's technological infrastructure, are now commonplace. In fact, to measure the variable accurately would have required a count of all wired coffee shops and launderettes in each city. Other promising indicators fail to reflect accurately a city's dynamism. For instance, patent filings do signal intellectual capital. But the innovations themselves may have been generated far from the city in which the paperwork was registered.

The study's result is an unbiased, quality controlled and rich look at the pulse of key cities at the heart of the interconnected financial and commercial world.