The Global Cities Initiative (GCI) fostered a network of organizations across metro areas that developed and implemented strategies to boost global trade and investment, forge partnerships between the U.S. and international metropolitan areas, and advocate for state and national policy changes. The initiative enabled local leaders to act on the ideas and collaborations generated by research and forums, resulting in more globally-oriented metropolitan areas and an evolution in economic development policy and practice. At the core of the GCI were 32 U.S. metropolitan areas that participated in pilot cohorts organized by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings to experiment with novel economic development practices. The tools and reports below build on lesson learned from three pilots:



For detailed stories and lessons from the design and implementation of both exports and foreign direct investment strategies, see The making of global cities: Stories from the Global Cities Exchange.


Many leaders in states, cities, and metropolitan areas across the country are exploring ways to help their firms tap into expanding markets worldwide to grow jobs at home. Export plans apply market intelligence to the development of strategies that help regions cultivate a larger pipeline of export-ready firms and better connect them to export services and growing global markets.

How-to guides and other tools: Example export plans:

Foreign direct investment (FDI)

Global cities are innovating to leverage foreign investment. Through foreign direct investment (FDI) plans, metro areas explore new forms of FDI, assess the interaction of FDI and exports, and develop strategies to attract and retain investment. The metro area produces a market assessment, a global trade and investment plan, an implementation plan, and a policy memo. The global trade and investment plan integrates both FDI and exports, supplanting the export plan.

How-to guides, and other tools: Example global trade and investment plans:

The following are examples of metro area-specific resources that have effectively contributed to the development and implementation of global trade and investment plans:

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Too often, metro areas fail to use data and a clear decision-making process to guide their international economic outreach. Leaders making “international relations” decisions are frequently separated from those stewarding the regional economic development agenda, and thus misaligned with broader efforts to grow businesses and job opportunities.

Market prioritization incorporates data analysis, insights from key private and civic stakeholders, and broader market intelligence into a process that aligns local economic priorities with international market trends and opportunities. This report draws on lessons learned from a one-year GCI pilot in which Brookings Metro worked with nine U.S. metro areas.

In order to deliver clear results that enhance regional competitiveness, city-regions need to prioritize, design, and operationalize city-to-city or metro-to-metro economic partnerships to advance an evolution from global exchange to strategic economic collaboration. Economic partnerships should be driven by the goal of extending and strengthening global specializations, and managed regionally to support that objective. This brief, based on a survey of metro-to-metro partnerships and experimentation with several markets through the Global Cities Initiative, provides examples and considerations for creating economic partnerships.

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Many midsized cities and metro areas find themselves competing for global capital, talent, and ideas for the first time, demanding new efforts to position themselves strategically within a global network. To establish that position, city-regions increasingly desire greater international visibility that conveys their local assets and competitive advantages. They are also seeking to assemble diverse stakeholders around a cohesive, consistent narrative of their own global position and ambitions. These activities require new approaches to communicate sector-specific strengths, which differ from traditional city marketing tactics like slogans and tourism promotion.

GCI undertook a pilot project with four U.S. metropolitan areas to develop a replicable process and menu of strategies for local leaders to more effectively define and communicate their region’s global identity.

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