World's Smartest Cities

No. 1: Singapore

The 21st-century successor to 15th-century Venice, this once-impoverished island nation now boasts an income level comparable to the wealthiest Western countries, with a per-capita GDP ahead of most of Europe and Latin America. Singapore Airport is Asia's fifth-largest, and the city's port ranks as the largest container entrepot in the world. Over 6,000 multinational corporations, including 3,600 regional headquarters, are located there, and it was recently ranked No. 1 for ease of doing business.

No. 2: Hong Kong

As the center of the world economy continues to shift from West to East, Hong Kong is certainly reaping the benefits. Hong Kong Shanghai Bank's chief executive recently relocated there from London. Its per-capita GDP is ranked 15th in the world. The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal have ranked Hong Kong the freest economy in the world.

No. 3: Curitiba, Brazil

This well-run metropolis in southern Brazil is famous for its rapid bus-based transit, used by 70% of its residents, and its balanced, diverse economic development strategy.
The city's program of building "lighthouses"--essentially electronic libraries--for poorer residents has become a model for developing cities worldwide. Environmental site Grist recently ranked Curitiba the third "greenest" city in the world.

No. 4: Monterrey, Mexico

Over the past few decades Monterrey has emerged from relative obscurity into a major industrial and engineering center. The city of 3.5 million has 57 industrial parks, specializing in everything from chemicals and cement to telecommunications and industrial machinery. Monterrey and its surrounding state, Nuevo Leon, boast a per-capita GDP roughly twice that of the rest of Mexico.

No. 5: Amsterdam

This longstanding financial and trading capital is home to seven of the world's top 500 companies, including Philips and ING. Relatively low corporate taxes and income taxes on foreign workers attract companies and individuals. Amsterdam's advantages include a well-educated, multilingual population and a lack of political corruption, as well as its location--in the heart of Europe, close to a major international airport and a short train trip to Rotterdam, the continent’s dominant port.

No. 6: Seattle, Wash.

Seattle's location close to the Pacific Ocean has nurtured trade with Asia, and its proximity to Washington state's vast hydro-power generation station assures access to affordable, stable clean electricity. The area also serves as the conduit for many of the exportable agricultural and industrial products produced both in the Pacific Northwest and in the vast, resource-rich northern Great Plains, closely linked to the region by highways and freight trains.

No. 7: Houston, Texas

Houston's close tie to the Caribbean, as well as its dominant global energy industry, thriving industrial base, huge Texas Medical Center complex and first-rate airport all work to its long-term advantage. Arguably the big city in the U.S. with the healthiest economy, Houston is also investing in a "green" future; last year it was the nation's largest municipal purchaser of wind energy.

No. 8: Charleston, S.C.

Charleston has expanded its port and manufacturing base while preserving its lovely historic core. Once an industrial backwater, Charleston now seems poised to emerge as a major aerospace center, with the location of a new Boeing 787 assembly plant there, which will bring upward of 12,000 well-paying jobs to the region.

No. 9: Huntsville, Ala.

This southern city has long had a "smart" core to its economy, a legacy of its critical role in the NASA ballistic missile program. Today the area's traditional emphasis on aerospace has been joined by bold moves into such fields as biotechnology. Kiplinger recently ranked the area's economy No. 1 in the nation.

No. 10: Calgary, Alberta

With the likely rise in commodity prices over the next decade, Canada seems likely to produce several successful cities. Over the past two decades, Calgary's share of corporate headquarters has doubled to 15%, the largest percentage of main offices per capita in Canada. Although the plunge in oil prices hit hard, rising demand for commodities in Asia should help revive the Albertan economy by next year.


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