OPINION: Move forward or fall behind

It’s a new year, a new beginning and a new chapter for London’s future. It’s time for a new approach, a new attitude and ultimately, it’s about time we build a global city.

The next decade is going to look much different and we cannot be stuck in the past.Mayor Matt Brown

The economy is changing rapidly and industries of the future are making investments in artificial intelligence, information communication technologies, green technology, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, modern medicine, digital and advanced manufacturing, the Internet of things, and the sharing economy.

We need to rigorously build those industries of the future in London because they will ultimately disrupt our existing economy causing waves of unemployment and other consequences.

London has been stagnant for many years. We will see our own demise if we continue to move slowly, remain comfortable with the status-quo, resistant to forward-looking change and dare I say regressive.

We need negotiators and experts to lobby and promote our city. Mayor Matt Brown once told me that his grandfather continuously reminded him that the world is run by those who show up.

How is London making its mark on the global stage?

This city used to be a commercial and industrial powerhouse. We used to have national and multinational companies in London investing and starting here. Many have left.

There’s no doubt London has strong credentials and competitive advantages, but how are we utilizing them to incentivize businesses, the creative class and tourists to invest and decide on London now?

That’s why I have called for a city wide place-branding strategy so we can turn London from just a location into an immediately recognizable destination.

As Harvard business Professor Michael Porter puts it, “a competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique matrix of value.”

Place-branding is an initiative many cities have undertaken to distinguish themselves.

Though it is a small sized city, Stratford has recently rebranded to focus efforts on promoting it as a forward-thinking technology centre to stay competitive in our globalized world.

“Now that we have the brand, we can be much more progressive and aggressive in terms of how we sell this community,” said investStratford CEO Marlene Coffey.

Mississauga is reshaping its image beyond the shadow of nearby Toronto as a magnet for international talent and investment.

A key strategy in fuelling the city’s momentum is a multi-year brand-building commitment. “It is deeply rooted in the idea of growth,” says the mississaugabrand.ca website. “We are a young city and are on the cusp of something big, of finding our voice, our identity.”

Last year Halifax launched a place branding campaign in which they changed their name to Halifax from HRM and slogan to “be bold”.

Although at first many opposed the name change and even the need to rebrand, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said, “It’s going to allow us to promote Halifax in a cohesive way, in a strategic way.” More than 20,000 residents provided feedback over a three-month period on what it means to live and work in the Halifax region.

We need to be willing to think differently. And the difference we need to embrace is the reality of who we are, where we want to be in the future and our value proposition as a place.

As the Greek oracle put it, “know thyself.” Now, live out that reality. A great city, like a great wine, has to express its terroir,” says Aaron Renn of the Manhattan Institute.

If you’d like to sign the petition or learn more, please go to www.newldn.ca

Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi is the Co-Founder & Executive Director of the London Institute. He is an entrepreneur, columnist, public speaker, and is currently specializing in Economics and Political Science at Western University.
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