Charlotte ranks among the World’s Most Competitive Cities in a report released by IBM and Site Selection magazine. Of the top 100 global cities, including New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and like, Charlotte ranks 40th or higher across the board.
It is great to get this recognition, but what does it really mean? By what standards is it being judged, and who is doing the judging? These considerations are essential to knowing how we really compare.
Every metropolitan area needs to view itself as a product in the global market, to define and distinguish itself among other cities seeking to do the same. Unfortunately, the word “global” gets bandied about as an adjective in front of nearly every business plan or activity. Recognizing that our economy is no longer simply driven by our domestic U.S. economy, we do need to learn about our standing in the world marketplace.
In business matters, businesses have collectively established ISO requirements—requirements, specifications, guidelines and characteristics promulgated by the International Organization for Standadization (ISO) that are used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose.
ISO standards ensure that products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality. For business, they are strategic tools that reduce costs by minimizing waste and errors, and increasing productivity. They help companies to access new markets, level the playing field for developing countries and facilitate free and fair global trade.
Just last year, a landmark ISO standard outlining key measurements for evaluating a city’s service delivery and quality of life has just been published. Its use will help city managers, politicians, researchers, business leaders, planners, designers and other professionals to focus on key issues, and put in place policies for more livable, tolerant, sustainable, resilient, economically attractive and prosperous cities.
The indicators included in ISO 37120:2014 will help cities to assess their performance and measure progress over time, with the ultimate goal of improving quality of life and sustainability. The standard’s uniform approach will enable cities to seamlessly compare where they stand in relation to other cities. This information can in turn be used to identify best practices and learn from one another.
Relative rankings from year to year will add another dimension to the information being presented. For example, those cities more anxious to improve their status may indicate a more favorable business climate relative to others. It will certainly be helpful and valuable that this is, in fact, a global index. Investigating cities that rank more favorably than Charlotte may open new thinking about ways for us to improve our ranking.
ISO 37120 standards address, economy, education, energy, environment, finance, fire and emergency response, governance, health and safety, solid waste, telecommunications, innovation, transportation, urban planning, wastewater, water and sanitation. Within these categories are the measurements that will be taken.
For instance, under education, the measurements will include (1) the percentage of female school-aged population enrolled in school, (2) the percentage of students completing primary education, (3) the percentage of students completing secondary education and (4) the primary education student/teacher ratio.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of criteria. It has been identified, selected and approved by the Board of ISO for introduction across the continents. It is, however, a beginning that will allow cities to begin to understand their ranking and how they compare with other cities of their size and what they might expect to accomplish or maintain as their cities grow or decline.
When a city enrolls in the ISO 37120, they will establish a baseline of data that will identify their status on the criteria that has been collected.
There is no obligation for a city to participate in the collection and publication of this data. It will be up to the citizens, the businesses, the academics and community groups to apply pressure for cities to take part. The value of this information can provide a perspective on the progress or the lack thereof progress for any participating unit. It can also help cities set objectives and priorities about the spending of public dollars and the value of those expenditures.
We would be most pleased to see the City of Charlotte enroll in the ISO standard. We urge you to let your city representatives and officials know about these standards and why and how they may be valuable to our community.
If we really want to become a global city of tomorrow or a global hub of international commerce, we need to participate and to evaluate our collective performance so that we are effectively competing with the competition for trade and business activity that grows every day.