My latest column is online over at Governing magazine and is called “The Benefits of Being a Necessary City.” Part of their international issue, I take a look at the global city concept and add to it the dimension that some cities, for industry-specific or other reasons, have become “necessary cities.” That is, these are cities that you can’t help visiting or doing business in or with if you operate in certain areas of the globe and/or in certain industries. Think New York, London, Singapore, Dubai, Houston, and San Francisco, for example. Do business in Asia-Pacific, you’re almost certain to be dealing with Singapore. If you’re in the tech industry, it’s the Bay Area. Here’s an excerpt:
One aspect of globalization that has received tremendous attention is the concept of the so-called “global city” — a place like New York or London that is in some sense an exceptionally successful and dominant player on the world stage. These have been variously defined, but often with a focus on specific business services like finance, and on overall economic size, diversity of culture and attractiveness as a tourist destination.
These are all important dimensions to be sure, but one area that’s gotten less attention is the seemingly old-fashioned idea of cities as centers for corporate headquarters. Even in this global age, it’s still an important idea. Some cities are simply “must do” locations for corporate heavyweights. This makes them in some sense “necessary cities” — ones you can’t help but visit or deal with when doing business globally because of their popularity or their specific industry.
One intriguing finding is that some places not conventionally viewed as global cities nevertheless are in a sense necessary global cities in select global industries. Take Detroit and the auto industry. The major global equipment manufacturers are widely dispersed, but when you look at leading global parts suppliers, they virtually all have their North American headquarters in Detroit — including the German, Japanese and Korean ones. Among them are companies like Robert Bosch, Denso, Yazaki and Hyundai Mobis. If you’re in the auto industry in America, you have to deal with Detroit. Unsurprisingly, Detroit boasts several nonstop flights to key Asian destinations.