US Decline Series: 3 cities prove US isn’t losing its edge

US Decline Series: 3 cities prove US isn’t losing its edge
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The age-old debate over the United States in decline deserves a look at the continued strength and rise of US cities. Here we look at three cities that deny the popular argument.

Since the end of World War II, shifts in economic power and global politics have caused the world to brace for the inevitable decline of the United States. Whether through fear of Soviet military might in the 60’s, Japanese economic prowess in the 80’s, or the recent ascent of India and China, America’s fall from superpower status has been perhaps the most widespread media narrative of the 21st century.

But looking at the rise and resilience of American cities paints a much different picture. A new report from The Economist Intelligence Unit measured the competitiveness of the world’s top cities over the next twelve years, and the United States still leads the pack. New York City remains at the top, as expected, but eleven other US cities will rank among the world’s most powerful in the coming years.

The three cities expected to make the biggest gains? Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Miami.

Atlanta, Georgia

The 10th largest US metro-economy and largest in the South, it is safe to call Atlanta the business capital of the Southeast United States. Over a dozen Fortune 500 companies call Atlanta their home, and not without good reason. Atlanta saw close to 5 percent GDP growth in 2013, as the city’s global businesses in transportation, food and beverage, and professional services found success in the rebounding US economy.

Much of Atlanta’s economic activity is driven by its status as an international flight and transport hub. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport is the world’s busiest, making the city an attractive destination for investment, business conventions, and global conferences. And with global companies like Coca-Cola, UPS, and The Home Depot all headquartered in Atlanta, the metro area will continue to benefit.

The airport is Atlanta’s largest revenue source, generating some $33 billion in direct business revenue in 2013. Amid its success, the city and state have made transparent regulatory policies and infrastructural investments top priorities. The city is currently rolling out a $500 million airport expansion plan, which aims to make Atlanta the logistics hub of the Western hemisphere.

The South is currently leading the United States in terms of economic growth, much of which is driven by Atlanta’s rise as a global competitor for investment and economic opportunity. Not every city can say it has the world’s busiest airport. Atlanta is taking advantage, and the future looks bright.

Los Angeles, California

Better known for its movie stars and fashion moguls than its power-economy status, Los Angeles is a leading US destination for foreign direct investment, primarily from Europe, Asia, and Canada. The city leads the US in annual exports, generating close to $80 billion annually since 2010. And while Hollywood and its sprawling film industry often take the spotlight, its LA’s two ports that deserve the public’s eye.

Taken together, the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach are ranked among the world’s top five port complexes. The Port of Los Angeles alone leads the United States in container volume and shipping traffic. Recent upgrades to the ports’ infrastructure have helped to secure LA’s position as the US trade gateway to the Pacific Rim.

Los Angeles currently handles 40 per cent of all US trade with China, where the Los Angeles Customs District handled $208 billion in bilateral trade in 2011. The ports also see significant trade with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand, totaling another $128 billion. And with the expansion of the Panama Canal expected to reach fruition, Los Angeles will likely retain its role as the natural port of entry for goods crossing the Pacific.

The city’s leadership in the film industry should not be overlooked, however, as it secures LA’s status as an international tourism destination. Annual tourism increased by 7 per cent year over year in 2012, as visitors from China, Mexico, Australia and the UK toured the star-studded Los Angeles city-scene.

Miami, Florida

Cool beaches, a tropical climate and a thriving international scene have long made Miami a popular investment and tourism destination, with foreign investors lured by the city’s high-priced real estate. Take a closer look, though, and you will find booming trade, logistics, finance and tech industries that have helped to make Miami the fastest growing metro-economy in the Southeast US.

Miami has benefitted from its proximity to Latin America, handling over one-third of all trade between the US and its partners to the south. Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami combine to form one of the nation’s largest transportation hubs, positioning the city as a natural US gateway to Latin America. The Port is set to open a new, multi-billion dollar tunnel this May, which is expected to work hand-in-hand with the Panama Canal expansion to further develop US trade with Latin America and the world.

The city boasts the largest foreign-born share of its population among US cities, and its financial services scene reflects this diversity. Miami has the largest concentration of foreign banks in the world outside of New York, positioning the city as the de facto economic and financial hub of Latin America. Multiple corporations have chosen Miami as their headquarters for Latin American operations, including GM, Hewlett-Packard, and Mitsubishi.

While Miami stands to benefit from its already-established logistics and finance industries, South Florida is also hoping to become the one of the next US tech spots. Microsoft recently announced the opening of its first US-based technology innovation center in downtown Miami. “We look at Miami as a great hub for technology … It’s a gateway to Latin America,” said Microsoft VP Sanket Akerkar.

A group of Latin American mayors recently held a tech conference in Miami, and other companies and start-ups are likely to follow Microsoft’s lead. The summer is coming, and it looks like the sun will continue to shine on Miami Beach.

Categories: Economics, North America

About Author

Rami Ayyub

Rami is an analyst with a US Defense and Space firm, where he works in strategic planning and finance for Civil and Defense programs. He holds Bachelor degrees in Finance and Classical Music from the University of Maryland, College Park.