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From Site Selection magazine, July 2019

What’s Your Metro’s IQ?

Mark Arend


An Asia Times report on June 25th caught my attention, because the headline had the phrase “intelligent manufacturing” in it. We were in the throes of finishing this issue at the time, which is chock full of related content: Smart Cities, Advanced Manufacturing, Innovation Hubs and Research Parks, to name a few. The article was about a three-year plan announced the previous day by the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization to make China’s leading commercial center an intelligent manufacturing hub by the end of 2021.

Perhaps they’ll find some tips in this issue.

The plan calls for “100 critical breakthroughs in regard to intelligent manufacturing equipment, industry software and key components.” Shanghai will work with 10 suppliers of intelligent manufacturing to design intelligent factory models and transform or upgrade 1,000 enterprises in the next two years. Tall order. They’ll focus on six industry sectors, initially — automotive, information engineering, civil aviation, biomedicine, high-end manufacturing and green chemistry. We’ll check in on Shanghai in 2021 to see how it’s all progressing.

The point is to show how seriously some cities take the notion of “intelligence” in the context of development, industrial or otherwise. Definitions of a smart city are all over the place, but I’ve found I know one when I’m in one. Everything about Singapore, for example, points to “intelligent design,” to borrow a phrase from another discussion. It’s not as big a priority yet in the United States, as it is elsewhere, particularly Asian metros. Which is fine — except when capital investors from Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore or Shenzhen come to town to consider locations for future facilities. (Our base, the Atlanta metro, is home to numerous operations from Asia, Europe and other world regions. Our transit and traffic systems could hardly be called “smart” compared to theirs, but we’re working on it.)

Asian investors are too polite to disparage vocally an area’s highway congestion or poorly timed traffic lights, at least in the presence of their hosts. But first impressions are important.

Another measure of location intelligence can be found in this issue — the sustainable locations rankings, compiled by Managing Editor Adam Bruns and Director of Programming and Analytics Daniel Boyer. These countries, states and cities are smart enough to have in place the policies and practices that attract companies that put corporate social responsibility front and center in their mission statements. They won’t locate in areas that don’t get that.

If a location you’re considering makes one of these rankings, it likely has some other innovations you and your employees will find of interest. In the meantime, keep an eye on Shanghai.

Till next time,
Mark Arend, Editor in Chief

Mark Arend
Editor Emeritus of Site Selection magazine

Mark Arend

Mark Arend is editor emeritus of Site Selection, and previously served as editor in chief from 2001 to 2023. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.


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