The world's twelve best manufacturing cities
Articles - IndustryWeek Magazine Publication Date 4.5.1999
By Richard Osborne
This time, 13 is a lucky number. Which is not to suggest that
our gold-medal World-Class Communities have achieved their status by
happenstance. In each case, it has required the efforts of visionary
manufacturing executives, wise government leaders, and dedicated workers.
Together, they are making the most of strategic locations and other natural
advantages in order to put their communities at the top. Here at a glance are
the communities we've chosen as the best of the best for manufacturing.
- Barcelona -- Barcelona has served as a crossroads of manufacturing --
a vital center of trading and shipping -- throughout the millennium now coming
to a close. Its strategic location, on the Mediterranean Sea and near the border
with France, has made its emergence as the principal industrial and commercial
center of Spain inevitable. But just as important has been its cultural
commitment to manufacturing as the mainstay of the community's economic life.
- Chicago -- More than 80 years ago, when steelworkers and meat packers
defined the spirit of Chicago, Carl Sandburg pronounced it the "City of the
big shoulders." Today, when blue suits capture that spirit as well as blue
collars, the name sticks. Today's Chicago is a textbook example of the new
manufacturing -- a community where location and production constitute the
beginning, not the end, of the manufacturing story, and skyscrapers and
industrial parks contribute equally to the skyline of success.
- Detroit -- Haunted by a perception that their community is caught in
a steep spiral of decline, metropolitan Detroit's civic and business leaders
have linked arms in an ambitious campaign that should put that perception to
rest. But any notion that the community is reinventing itself misses an
essential point: Manufacturing -- the community's lifeblood for generations --
is a key component of the turnaround. The efforts of community leaders, then,
constitute a commitment to rediscovering the community's roots.
- Houston -- The story of Houston is the story of a lesson painfully
but profitably learned. When oil prices collapsed in 1982, the city suffered.
But as the community reeled, it also pledged it would do everything in its power
to find a cure. Today, in addition to its strength in oil and gas exploration,
basic petroleum refining, and petrochemical production, the area thrives on high
technology, medical research, health care, and professional services.
- Osaka -- The unrelenting Japanese recession has put even world-class
Osaka to the test. It is a test the community has passed with typical
resilience. Such old reliables as textiles, automobiles, and electrical
equipment remain. But in their midst, innovation. Names such as Matsushita,
Sharp, and Nintendo tell the tale of Osaka, just as they tell the tale of the
Kansai region -- and just as they tell the tale of the future of manufacturing
- Randstad -- The Randstad region of the Netherlands is a cornucopia of
manufacturers engaged in everything from tobacco to information technology. But
it is not merely the products that emerge from this thriving region that give it
its world-class status. The Randstad earns its place by virtue of its holistic
approach to manufacturing. Its impressive lineup of headquarters, logistics, and
R&D facilities puts the region on the manufacturing map, and marks it with a
- San Jose -- Unless you've been trapped in a cave -- with no access to
the Internet -- for the last 30 years or so, you know the way to San Jose quite
well: Just follow the computers. The capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose is
considered to be the birthplace of the high-technology boom and the
semiconductor industry. The spirit of innovation emanating from Silicon Valley
remains the energy force that fuels high technology around the globe.
- São Paulo -- Transportation advances during the last century (not to
mention a strong dose of coffee) sealed São Paulo's shift from an agrarian
economy. The city now is the commercial center not only of Brazil, but also of
South America. Besides its prominence in the chemical, textile, metalworking,
and electronics industries, São Paulo is a driving force in world automobile
production. No wonder the São Paulo metro area continues to attract all sorts
of plants, including automotive.
- Seoul -- The relationship between Seoul and Inchon stands as a model
of the world-class manufacturing community. No one city can achieve world-class
status alone. The bustling port city of Inchon is used to its best advantage by
Seoul, whose own manufacturing base -- primarily textiles and apparel, chemicals
and medicine, electrical products and electronics, and machinery -- supplies
markets around the world. It comes as no surprise, then, that Seoul is at the
forefront of the globalization of Korea.
- Shanghai -- One of the largest cities in the world, Shanghai earns
its world-class distinction by virtue of its position as the leading commercial
and industrial center of China and for capitalizing on its strategic location
with outstanding transportation links. Like São Paulo, Shanghai benefits
greatly from its perception in the executive suites of foreign corporations.
When the subject turns to China, more often than not Shanghai is mentioned in
the next breath.
- Singapore -- Call Singapore the survivor. No one here will object --
least of all the government and business leaders who, with the help and
cooperation of workers, have struggled valiantly to beat the odds. The struggle
has been largely successful. Though Singapore has been hurt by association --
that is, its economic ties to Southeast Asia -- it is managing to overcome the
regional crisis. Growth is slow but steady and indicates a gradual course toward
even greater prosperity.
- Tokyo -- Eleven million manufacturing workers lend their might to the
Kanto/Kansai mega-megalopolis. Tokyo, capital of the Kanto region and
counterpart of Osaka in the Kansai region, is home to many of the world's
largest manufacturers as well as thousands of smaller firms. Tokyo also is a
headquarters community, with automakers among those who have found it an ideal
setting for both corporate penthouses and plant floors.
- Toronto -- Although Toronto serves as headquarters for a number of
manufacturing firms, it is the North American auto industry that keeps it
thriving. And when the cars and trucks roll off Toronto's assembly lines, many
of them head straight to the U.S. A cosmopolitan city where culture and business
walk hand in hand, Toronto is poised to be a symbol of the best of the best in
Canada as a new century dawns.