\ Global cities: Sydney a fun place to visit, but not to do business – Committee For Sydney

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Global cities: Sydney a fun place to visit, but not to do business

April 30, 2015

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Author: Jessica Irvine

Sydney risks becoming the “one-night stand” of the world: a fun place to visit, but do you really want to stick around?

According to global cities expert, Greg Clark, Australia’s tourism marketing has worked a little too well.

“You get this message that the whole of Australia is just about going to the beach, drinking beer and being at barbies. There is a risk this idea – that Sydney is a place to holiday and party – becomes the dominant story.”

While Sydney performs well on measures of quality of life and entertainment, it ranks below average on ease of doing business, transportation and infrastructure and costs of doing business, according to Clark, an adviser to the Organisation for Economic Co-ordination and Development on cities and fellow at The Brookings Institute.

“My review of all the indexes says that Sydney is very strong on place to visit and not very strong on place to invest.”

In a world of increasingly mobile investment and workers, the question for Sydney, Clark says, is: “How do you turn a one-night stand into a long-term relationship?”

Sydney needs to lift its game as a place to do business, he says.

“People think it’s harder to do business in Sydney. It’s not easy to get permits. It’s not easy to get a location. It’s an expensive place to do business. It’s a place that’s space constrained. It’s difficult to navigate.”

“Sydney has a ‘world city’ economic and investment profile, but a ‘second-tier city’ infrastructure profile.”

The strain is beginning to show.

Sydney ranks as the world’s 90th biggest city by population and 47th by economic output.

But by pace of growth, Sydney ranks a desultory 151th, eking out just 1 per cent growth in economic output per person between 2009 and 2014 and 1.4 per cent annual jobs growth.

Whereas former Premier Bob Carr once famously declared Sydney “full”, Clark says Sydney needs an “alliance for growth”.

“The last thing that you’d want to tell the world is that Sydney is full and closed.”

“The main thing is investing in infrastructure and land use systems so that you reduce costs by increasing supply,” says Clark.

Clark observes Sydney has a “very low” mass transit coverage by world city standards and a relatively high car-dependency for a world city at 70 per cent plus.

Density is also a problem, at just 40 per cent of London’s and 20 per cent of New York and Singapore.

Overall, Sydney needs to improve the story we tell the world, says Clark, who is visiting Sydney as a guest of the business-backed Committee for Sydney.

National branding like “where the bloody hell are you” risked obscuring the fact that 90 per cent of Australia is urbanised.

“Sydney is becoming one of the world’s very important cities. But you have got to be better at leveraging the story. Instead of thinking about the Opera House and Harbour Bridge as places that signify fun, they should also be places that signal innovation, optimism, the future.”

Many global cities – San Francisco, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Cape Town and Singapore – have faced similar dilemmas.

“Twenty years ago, the places I have just listed, their primary identity was as visitor destinations. Let’s go on holiday to Barcelona, let’s go to San Francisco to have fun, let’s go to Miami to retire. All these cities have successfully created business brands.”

Miami repositioned as the gateway to Latin America and the Carribean and San Francisco invented Silicone Valley: “Silicon Valley is a business brand. San Francisco is a destination brand. It’s very clever.”

Sydney, too, has positives to sell, according to Clark: “Sydney is unique. It combines being a fantastic destination with being a city with the ability to add value to any investment or business proposition. Its people are highly educated. It’s diverse and global. It’s in a great location. It has a stable government. It’s got enterprise and energy and looks to the future in a way that other places don’t.”

But competition is fierce and Sydney risked falling behind: “Global capital flow is at an all time high. Foreign direct investment is at an all time high. Mobility of talented people is accelerating. Sydney can’t afford to miss out.”

Read the article online here.

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