The Platform


There’s a worrying trend of American cities losing their competitive edge.

This is not a scene from an action-packed script; this is the present situation in New York. The elected officials of both New York City and the State of New York, through a series of decisions marked by a lack of foresight and obtuse policies, have cultivated an unwelcoming atmosphere for large-scale investors. This erosion of investor confidence poses a considerable challenge to the city and state’s aspirations for economic development in an increasingly competitive market.

When influential investors like Kevin O’Leary and Grant Cardone publicly renounce future financial commitments to New York, it’s a stark indication that it’s time to pause, reflect, and critically evaluate the administrative direction of both the city and state.

The dialogue surrounding billionaires is often tainted with negativity, branding them as the ‘villains’ of the economic story. However, it is these very individuals who inject substantial amounts of capital into building enterprises, erecting structures, and creating myriad job opportunities.

When these billionaires decide to invest their riches elsewhere, it serves as a wake-up call, an alert to the existing economic climate. It’s akin to sensing the brewing coffee from Starbucks and realizing the time for action is now.

Billionaires, much like anyone else, observe market trends and investor behaviors. If they witness peers withdrawing from an area for various reasons, it’s only natural for them to reconsider their strategies and potentially ‘follow the crowd.’ A couple of key players backing out can signal a larger exodus, leaving one to wonder: who will be the next to look beyond New York City for opportunities?

The news of Cardone reallocating $500 million intended for a New York project to a new venture in Miami and Florida is a tell-tale example of this shift. Such an infusion of funds in Miami underscores the significance of investor confidence in fostering a thriving commercial environment. The loss of this investment is not just a missed opportunity for New York, but a significant setback.

When multiple investors make decisions to channel their resources elsewhere, the effects on a regional economy can be profound, especially if that economy is already on precarious footing. A downturn is difficult to reverse, a fact made painfully clear by the protracted economic struggles of cities like Detroit.

Take Baltimore, for example, currently facing the task of replacing a key bridge. Instead of merely constructing a replica, there is a critical need for a forward-thinking approach that not only replaces but enhances. If a bridge with a clearance of 200 feet previously posed navigational challenges, then a redesign should incorporate increased clearance, possibly 220 to 240 feet, to ensure unobstructed passage. Moreover, adding an extra lane or a dedicated level for trucks and buses could significantly improve traffic flow and functionality. Replacing the old with an eye on the past 40 years without consideration for the next 40 is a misuse of resources. Thoughtful infrastructure development should aim for enhancement, not just replacement.

In an ironic nod to the film Escape from New York, New York City now faces a metaphorical wall, dealing with escalating crime rates against women and police, engendering a climate of fear and distrust. This unease impacts not just the willingness of people to use mass transit but also the pace at which the workforce returns to corporate offices and the eagerness of investors to engage with the city.

Yet, New York is not alone; it shares its tribulations with cities like Chicago and San Francisco, among others, each grappling with the ramifications of policies that have not yielded the desired outcomes. The threat is clear: unless these cities address their issues effectively, they risk losing their competitive edge as others ascend with more affirmative and strategic visions.

When significant investments wane, or when major sports teams opt for greener pastures, the resulting downward spiral can be hard to arrest. The looming question for all such cities on the brink is who will be the next to fall into a long-term struggle for revival, akin to Detroit’s historical plight, and who will rise, reinventing themselves to emerge as a beacon of urban resurgence?

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.