On the CBoC city magnets report

I just read the Globe & Mail story on the CBoC report on magnet cities.  I read five or six of these comparisons each year and you can poke holes in the all.  Consider the MacLean’s crime report which has ‘Codiac’ listed as a city in New Brunswick with low crime rates.

I’m going to download and read the full report but based on the G&M report, it seems straight forward enough.  They have a few rather blunt metrics to evaluate cities and then they compile and score. 

It’s good to see St. John’s ranking high on a report such as this. 

Look, a magnet city is primarily a city that is magnetized.  If  you have good paying jobs people will move to your city.  I did a focus group in Charlottetown a couple of years ago and there were Phds from Israel, the UK, the US and India – all thrilled to be on the Island because they were in rewarding research careers either in animal science or nutraceuticals.  That doesn’t make a report like this but it is factual.

Looking backwards – and saying because you have a high ratio of Phds in the workforce is a sign you are a magnet is one measure but not necessarily a particularly good one. 

Smart cities will look carefully at reports like this and instead of reflexively casting it aside will take learnings from it.  This is not MacLeans and the CBoC doesn’t have Codiac as a magnet city.

10 thoughts on “On the CBoC city magnets report

  1. Why wouldn’t the number of PHD’s be a good measure? It means research is being done. It may be true that its not the ONLY measure, but I’d certainly call it ‘good’. Think of the opposite.

  2. Mikel, of course it’s not as simple as that.

    I can’t procrastinate too much this morning so I will point out only a few things about the CBoC report:

    – Cities are benchmarked according to seven categories: Society, Health, Economy, Environment, Education, Innovation, and Housing.

    – The Society category is made up of four indicators: accessibility (mode of travel, population density, access to culture); diversity (foreign-born population, diversity of population, age of population, multilingualism); social cohesion (immigrant success, gender equality, poverty, incidence of crime); and creativity (cultural employment).
    – The Innovation category is made up of five indicators:
    Population employed in natural and applied sciences (2006); Population employed in computer and information systems (2006); Graduates in engineering, math, and science (2006); Productivity level (2006); and Productivity growth (2002–06).

    – According to the report, the search for indicators “began with a commitment to find measures that influence the location decisions of Canada’s migrants, be they international, interprovincial, or intercity migrants.”

    So, in a few words, it’s worth reading.

  3. I forgot an important category (one that is often cited by New Brunswickers as an attractive of the province): Housing.

    CBoC used three indicators for this category: Income share spent on mortgage (2006); Income share spent on rent (2006); and Homes in need of major repair (2006).

    Some people might be “surprised” by some of their findings (I am referring to those who, very conveniently, disregard the income part of the equation).

  4. I noticed they mentioned “immigration” as a challenge for Halifax? How did Moncton, Saint John and Freddy fair in that category? Anyone?

  5. To be clear, the report identifies St. John’s Newfoundland as one of the attractive cities.

    It does mention Saint John, New Brunswick, as one of the worst, with “poor education resources, low innovativeness in their economies, and either low rates of population growth or outright declines.”

  6. Responding to ‘Have we moved the ball down the field’, because comments are closed on that post:

    No, don’t quit.

    But – respect the fact that some of the people who disagree with you may be right. And be open to the possibility that if a strategy has been advocated without success for 20 years that maybe it’s time to change strategies.

  7. I think these lists are just another distraction from the need for meaningful economic development. We have created so many resourses focused on what has become acceptable as economic development, we have lost the true meaning and measures such as jobs created and wealth.

    Government funds hockey rinks, highways and golf courses under the ED banner. Agencies report ‘results’ that include golf tournaments, award banquents and attendance at trade shows. Of course inclusion on one of the dozens of lists for tops in something or other is an accomplishment attributed to ED efforts. Suddenly banquets, bail outs and job retention is the best we can expect from the hundreds of people and millions of dollars associated with ED.

    If you slice through all the fluff, there is very little true economic development going on. I don’t really care if my local ED staffer has traveled to 30 countries on my tax dollars;I care about the jobs created, the investment attracted and the companies that have expanded to my community. It is time to get serious about ED and develop a meaningful strategy with targeted investments.

  8. @Anonymous
    “I think these lists are just another distraction from the need for meaningful economic development.”
    > Actually, no. These studies are A TOOL for economic development. If you don’t know where you stand, how do you know where you are going?

  9. Anon 14:43 I absolutely agree that we need to have some consistent measures so as to set goals and measure progress. What I am suggesting is these measures should be things like employment figures, average wages, foreign investment, new jobs created, productivitry, GDP, exports etc. It is very dangerous when we think we are successful because we are on a smartest city list, best place to do business etc. All these might be indicators but the quality is very inconsistent. There are so many lists and rankings from so many organizations that statistically you’d end up on someone’s list if you waited long enough. Yes, these can be used for marketing and for positive morale but we should never lose site of the meaningful objectives; I’ll sacrifice being on McLeans magazine top city list in exchange for tons of good jobs any day.

  10. @ Anonymous 20:03
    This study actually considers many (perhaps most) of the indicators that you listed (see my comment of January 15th, 2010 at 13:04). The ranking is just a way of benchmarking.

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