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Metropolitan Revolution

So what's so special about Manchester then, Bruce?

In a packed room in the Town Hall last night, Bruce Katz held the room spellbound with his rallying call to cities.  Arguing that cities can lead the way out of the ‘Great Recession’, Katz showed how a strong grasp on a city’s USP (Unique Selling Point) is its greatest chance for prosperity.

At first glance, Katz is an academic on a book tour, promoting The Metropolitan Revolution (co-written with Jennifer Bradley). Closer inspection reveals that he is advising city administrations across the world, including Manchester, on how cities can take charge of their future.  And when he speaks, it sounds like a call to arms.

Katz and Bradley argue that centralised government is failing.  Struggling with debt management and out of ideas, national governments do not have the right solutions to restart failing economies in the West.  Cities however, are the right size and are run by ‘pragmatic’ leaders who are well positioned to support local organisations with innovative products and services to sell on the global stage.

Striking visuals supported Katz’s proposition.  City leaders should look at what’s special about their municipality. Which local SMEs sell worldwide? What are they exporting and where?  These companies will be networked into a distribution chain already. They can be gathered into a portfolio of products and services and exported to other municipalities worldwide. City leaders should act as salespeople, using their international connections to make introductions and smooth the business development process. 

His examples included Portland, Oregan in USA, previously known as a ‘hippy destination’ and now presiding over a dramatic rise in the city’s GDP.  Portland spent several decades greening their city and now sell the knowhow, related products and services to cities suffering from pollution. Chinese cities are major clients.

He was also impressed by how we had ‘repurposed the good bones’ of our city’s buildings.

I asked Katz what he thought was special about Manchester and he had an interesting reply.  He thought the place had a ‘great buzz’.  Well we know that already. He was also impressed by how we had ‘repurposed the good bones’ of our city’s buildings.

Over the past 40 years, Manchester has refashioned itself from a dirty old town into a thriving metropolis that attracts funky green businesses in particular.  Now that’s got to be a good export strategy: cool, green innovations.

Quick, someone tell Richard.


‘An audience with Bruce Katz’ took place in Manchester Town Hall at 10am on Friday, 1 November 2013.  Speakers included; Valentino Castellani, former mayor of Turin; Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities; and Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council.