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WATCH: London and San Diego mayors on their cities’ global connections and competitiveness

On February 12, the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings hosted a conversation with London Mayor Boris Johnson and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer about the challenges of governing global cities for inclusive growth.

During the discussion, which was moderated by Metro VP & Director Bruce Katz, both mayors emphasized the importance for their cities of innovation, collaboration, investment in physical and virtual infrastructure, training, collaboration with the private sector, and attracting a skilled workforce.

Watch the full video here:

In his initial remarks, Mayor Johnson said:

[London] still is the global financial capital, we have more people still in financial services in London than there are anywhere else on earth including New York. … We actually had more American banks established in London than are in New York itself.

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We also are seeing the biggest rebalancing in the London economy since the Industrial Revolution. … There are about 528,000 people now involved in [the tech] sector as against about 300,000 in financial services. So that is growing very, very fast and we need to build partnerships [and] attract investors from America …


I do not want you for a minute to think that we are in any way failing as a manufacturing city. It’s not just services, it’s not just media and culture and all areas in which we excel. We export chocolate cake to France … we export TV aerials to Korea … we export bikes to Holland … and we export, I’m delighted to say, tea from London to America on which we the British charge no tax whatever.

Mayor Faulconer spoke of San Diego’s strengths, saying:

I appreciate the talk about the role that we are playing with Mexico, particularly Tijuana. That’s a huge strength for us in San Diego, it’s an asset, it’s a competitive advantage. And one that as mayor not only do I welcome, but I promote and foster every chance I get. When we look at what we’re doing in medical device manufacturing, we don’t say its two cities—San Diego and Tijuana—we say it’s one region, one mega region . If you combine what we’re doing in medical device manufacturing, we are the largest region for medical device manufacturing on the planet.


So we have that unique combination in San Diego of entrepreneurial spirit, all of the skill sets, but increasingly it’s innovation. … Last year we had 400 new startups. Seventy-three of those were in life science companies alone, and so you talk about that tremendous convergence in all of the things that we’re doing, that’s the future, that’s the entrepreneurial spirit that we are bringing to the table. …


It has to be that we’re saying to folks, come be part of the ecosystem of talent that is hard to match across the country. What we have in San Diego with our research institutions, with our colleges and our universities, and of course some of the smartest companies the world that are bringing some of the smartest minds to bear on some of the biggest challenges …


We have a thriving economy. When we’re growing small businesses, when we’re growing great companies, that’s how we pave streets, that’s how we hire more police officers, firefighters, keep our libraries and rec centers open.

Mayor Johnson later noted “one of the paradoxes of this whole conversation about cities.” That is, he said: “pretty soon we’re going to have to start thinking hard about what were doing about the villages, and what we’re doing for the coastal towns … Because those areas need just as much attention, and the triumph of the city is I think now accepted. We need to think about what’s happening in the rest of the countryside as well.”

“We say we have to collaborate in order to compete,” said Mayor Faulconer.

Both cities are participating in the Global Cities Initiative, which helps business and civic leaders grow their metropolitan economies by strengthening international connections and competitiveness. GCI activities include producing data and research to guide decisions, fostering practice and policy innovations, and facilitating its Exchange, a peer learning network. Peter Scher, trustee at the Brookings Institution and managing director at JPMorgan Chase & Co., opened the program and introduced the mayors.

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