chapter  5
17 Pages

The city in its context

Introduction Urban economies are situated very specifi cally with regard to both time and space. They developed their present economy at a period in time when certain technologies were both available and in vogue, and at a general period in the evolution from agriculture to industry to service activity. As a consequence, the infrastructure they have today was put in place decades or centuries ago, as were many of a city’s economic assets – such as labor with certain skills, ancillary industries, and governance structures. Given the infl uence of these heritage assets the contemporary economy is both enabled and constrained by the exigencies of the economy of that earlier time. Urban economies are also spatially situated in relation to natural assets and topographical features, and they may be either in close proximity with other urban areas or they may be isolated. This gives the city certain advantages or disadvantages in relation to other cities and guides them, with varying degrees of authority, onto a development path that is in conformity with them. From the standpoint of enhancement of a city’s competitiveness, the result is a complex of signals that city leaders must be able to read and to interpret if they are to chart a course for the development of their city’s economy. They also affect the expectations and aspirations of the people who inhabit them. The effect of this can be seen from examination of the experiences of urban economies in both Europe and the United States.