What moves a city to compete internationally against Frankfurt, Mumbai, Singapore, or San Francisco? Is it leadership? Wealth? Location? Dumb luck? Too often, cities only chatter.
Our own Philadelphia, however, has been ramping up its global game: Balanced among legendary Quaker modesty, the Broad Street Bullies, and a stunning mix of fresh outsiders, we have entered the arena. Here are four exciting examples of real global action:
A premier international airline just opened a direct flight to its national capital. Qatar Airways inaugurated its new link to Doha on April 2. Both cities are in the centers of their regions, and both are competing against much more prominent local rivals.
A major investment event with concrete business opportunities is arriving shortly. The "World Forum for Foreign Direct Investment 2014" will be in town from June 15 to 18. This is the first time this major business event is happening anywhere in North America. Visitors from Germany, India, and other nations, plus from many American states, are registered already. The entire country will benefit from this world-class matchmaking event - if we all make the effort.
The World Meeting of Families is arriving in September 2015, and perhaps Pope Francis will attend. There is no better and no more vital issue than our families to be associated with. The recent visit to Rome by Mayor Nutter and other dignitaries, including Gov. Corbett and Archbishop Charles Chaput, was a mandatory part of the protocol dance, demonstrating local commitment and hands-on energy.
Philadelphia is applying for formal World Heritage City status. This recognition is given only to significant cultural and natural locations around the world, reflecting the very best of humanity and our collective achievements. Denis Ricard, the secretary general of the Organization of World Heritage Cities, visited Philadelphia last month. He was openly impressed with our ability to look to the future as well as to respect our past.
Led by a civic group called the Global Philadelphia Association, the city enthusiastically began a campaign last November to capture this unique designation. Although the application process will take years and success is not guaranteed, the effort will confirm Philadelphia as a proud, historical, and true American city that is ready to meet the world.
During my 29 years of living and working across four continents, I've seen that global competition is everywhere - whether we like it or not, and whether we are ready or not. Philadelphians have been getting this message, and figuring out how to tackle problems together. Look at the determined efforts to improve our schools. Hear the expert talk about improving our infrastructure. Notice how more nonprofits are collaborating and the for-profit corporations that are looking beyond the bottom line.
Philadelphia is welcoming the world to the genuine crucible of democracy. It's time to grow our fair city and our region. Let the global games begin.