Let’s hear it for the cities of Europe. Eurocities is a network of more than 130 large cities in 34 European countries which seeks to provide a strong voice for cities. Its current priorities are fighting climate change (the sustainable city); seeking economic recovery (the prosperous city); and combating poverty and social exclusion (the inclusive city). A recent Eurocities conference in Zaragoza, Spain, focused on successful cities needing to have a clear vision and a strong identity.

Accounting for 75% of Europe’s population and 85% of its GDP, cities are the continent's main economic driver. They are where people, businesses, services and infrastructure are all concentrated. They are the main recipients of FDI into Europe.

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So why is it then that so many regions in Europe, of all shapes and sizes, are keen to promote their wares to us? A huge list of unrecognisable and in many cases unpronounceable regions are out in the market attempting to attract investment. From a business perspective it does not make any sense. 

The primary location factors for most investments are access to markets and talent (people), and these are found in the cities. Our experience with companies is that they understand cities, which are recognisable and tangible, but they don’t have the same empathy with regions, especially administrative regions drawn up by bureaucrats. With their mayors, cities have someone up front providing leadership and vision, and a promise – someone to do business with. Cities are also better at providing statistics, to help with benchmarking. Regions on the other hand, are much more faceless and abstract.

With much of FDI into Europe being services and knowledge-based, cities are the natural destinations for these flows. So cities of Europe, do stand proud and tell us about your offer. For regions still attempting to try to impress, could you please tell us about your cities?

Douglas Clark is director of Techlocate, a site search and inward investment consultancy which is part of RSM Tenon, a top ten firm of accountants and business advisers. Email: douglas.clark@rsmtenon.com