11 Cities with the Most Opportunity Right Now
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has a comprehensive new ranking of 30 cities in the world that offer the widest opportunities for businesses and the people who live there.
PwC's sixth edition of its "Cities of Opportunity" report examined intellectual capital and innovation; technology readiness; how accessible a city is to the rest of the world; transportation and infrastructure; health, safety, and security; sustainability and the natural environment; demographics and livability; economic clout; ease of doing business; and cost.
We took a closer look at the top 11 cities on the list, what got them there, and where they have room to improve.
This artistic hub in Germany scored particularly high for public transport and health, safety, and security. Berlin — Germany's largest city — tied for #3 for sustainability and the natural environment. It ranks #4 for demographics and livability.
Anybody who's ever visited Berlin knows that the massive underground transit, known as the U-Bahn, is unbelievably clean and efficient. Berlin is also a very safe place for tourists, who can take in the city's vibrant art scene.
More and more businesses are also attracted to Berlin these days. Just last year, The New York Times reported that the city was having a "coming of age moment." From The Times:
As it attempts to evolve from a city that relies heavily on government support to one with sustainable industries, companies like Google and Etsy have opened up offices, joining technology start-ups like SoundCloud and ResearchGate, giving credit to the hype that Berlin is becoming a contender for Europe’s Silicon Valley.
The PwC report noted that Berlin had risen to #12 from #16 in its last report for technology readiness, "confirming its steadily rising reputation as a high-tech hub in Europe."
The Windy City of nearly 3 million people is one of the biggest cities in America, and it earned high marks in the PwC study for cost, quality of life, and air quality.
The city also made the top 10 for ease of doing business, which means big corporations are attracted to the midwestern metropolis. Indeed, there are nearly 30 Fortune 500 companies in the Chicago area, including the massive aircraft company Boeing.
Chicago has a lot to offer culturally, and it appears to have rebounded from a particularly bloody crime wave of the summer of 2012. Earlier this year, The New York Times published a 36-hour guide for Chicago visitors.
"As the temperatures fall, the city changes from a playground to a cultural promised land — a place of fine and varied food, inventive theater and one of the country’s great live music scenes," The Times reported.
Unfortunately, the Windy City fell out of the top 10 in transportation and infrastructure. It's not entirely clear from the report why Chicago fared poorly in transportation, but last year the city had a disastrous rollout of a new fare card system for the Chicago Transit Authority system of trains and buses.
As for infrastructure, Chicago pledged in 2012 to invest billions to fix its crumbling underground water pipes, school buildings, and city buildings. Of course, big projects like that take time.
Sydney’s benefits are obvious: incredible weather, an abundance of beautiful beaches, and Australia’s favorable “work-life balance.” It consistently ranks highly in safety, friendliness, and quality of living surveys.
In PwC's rankings, Sydney hit #1 for both sustainability and livability. As the financial, manufacturing, and cultural hub of Australia, Sydney has a strong, thriving economy and plenty of business opportunities.
However, housing prices and the cost of living are, like all of Australia, very high. For reference, rent for a 1-bedroom in Sydney costs approximately $2,100 a month, while a pair of Levi Jeans will cost you $100.
Regular daily expenses are 16% more expensive than the world average, making it the 12th most expensive city in the world.
8. Hong Kong
Despite the incredible population density of Hong Kong, the city-state ranks high in quality of life rankings and has the 5th-highest life expectancy in the world. The city has an exceptional public transportation system, with over 90% of daily travels occurring on public transport.
The Index of Economic Freedom has ranked Hong Kong's economy as #1, in part because of its low taxes and sophisticated international financial market. Indeed, PwC rated Hong Kong #2 for ease of doing business.
Hong Kong’s largest problem is, unsurprisingly, pollution and air quality, which has gotten significantly worse in the last 20 years.
Stockholm is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, with both its population and new businesses ballooning over the last 15 years. One of the city’s biggest innovations was creating a publicly owned broadband network in the mid-‘90s, which has developed a booming tech industry that has spawned Spotify and DICE Games.
"We have a very interesting mix of life science companies, information and communications technology companies, clean tech companies, and the entertainment industries," Stockholm's vice mayor for innovation, Ulla Hamilton, told PwC. "That creates an innovative climate."
The city is also exceptionally green. Sustainability has been a heavy focus of the city for more than 60 years, as it has worked to develop public transportation, clean water, and a heating district system that keeps pollution out of the environment.
Immigration has become one of Stockholm’s (and all of Sweden’s) biggest challenges, as the influx of asylum-seekers over the last decade has coincided with a rise in crime.
Paris is highly regarded for its libraries, respected universities, and high rates of literacy and education, ranking 1st in PwC’s rankings of Intellectual Capital and Innovation.
Public transportation in the city is exceptional with 14 metro lines, a network of regional trains that connect the city to the suburbs, and express lanes exclusively for buses.
While it's certainly an interesting place to live — full of the world's best museums — obscenely expensive housing, poor car traffic, and record unemployment have dragged down the city in recent years.
5. San Francisco
Not surprisingly, the heart of Silicon Valley was one of the top 3 cities for intellectual capital and innovation. San Francisco — population 825,000, compared to 8 million in New York City — is an example of a small city with outsize economic influence, according to the PwC report.
While the city got a relatively good ranking for cost (6), the city is getting more expensive. As a result, families there are fleeing for the suburbs, the PwC report notes.
"... [I]n places like San Francisco, Seattle, and Berlin, families are deserting the city," the report says. "As cities become more expensive and apartments smaller, the suburbs start looking better."
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Despite Toronto's crack-smoking mayor, it has a reputation for providing an excellent quality of life. In the PwC report, the Canadian city made the top 3 for health, safety, and security and transportation and infrastructure; it was ranked #4 for ease of doing business.
The city is considered one of the safest in North America, and it ranked #1 in the PwC report for public transport systems. However, it ranked #13 for traffic congestion and #12 for ease of commute.
"Toronto’s rankings in these two variables also reflect the city’s current reality, in which the lack of a fully integrated regional transportation system is one of the leading challenges for Toronto," the PwC report stated.
This sovereign city-state ranked in the top 3 for city gateway; transportation and infrastructure; and ease of doing business. Singapore made big advances in this year's edition of PwC's "Cities of Opportunity," going up 4 spots to 3rd place and dominating transportation and infrastructure.
As the Lonely Planet travel guide notes, "Singapore has fantastic public transport, with a tangled web of bus and train (MRT) routes taking you to the doorsteps of most sights." It's also possible to island-hop near Singapore by taking one of the city's many ferries.
Singapore established superior infrastructure and transportation when it was a British colony prior to 1963, according to the Encyclopedia of the Nations. In the '70s and '80s, the city-state reacted to increased traffic problems by investing heavily in its mass transit system.
While Singapore falls out of the top 10 in sustainability and the natural environment, it may do better on that front in the next PwC report. Just last month, The New York Times reported on a massive new green park in the middle of the city known as the Green Corridor.
The park was inspired by New York's High Line, but it's much bigger at 15 miles long.
2. New York
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While New York City didn't finish first in any of the indicator categories, it finished strongly across the board, according to the PwC ranking. The Big Apple was the second-most desired city for relocation (right after London), and it was in the top 3 for "ease of doing business" and for "economic clout."
New York City is home of the two biggest stock exchanges in the world, the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ, and it's a hub for a range of industries from finance to fashion to publishing to technology.
The city isn't the easiest place to live or even visit, though. The Big Apple ranked 16th for transportation and infrastructure. The PwC reported cited the city's rising costs of public transportation (specifically, the MTA) and the difficulty of finding taxicab.
New York also has a higher cost of living than other cities in the survey like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Beijing. Just last month, CNN reported that it was the third most expensive city in the world to rent an apartment.
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London — the world's hottest city — finished 1st in technology readiness, city gateway, and economic clout. It jumped from the 8th spot for technology readiness in PwC's last report to number 1 this time, in part because it provides internet access in many schools. The British capital is also developing its tech sector, particularly in the area of health technology.
The British city's 6 international airports probably helped it ascend to the top ranking for city gateway. You can even hop on the high-speed Eurostar train and get from Paris to London in just a couple of hours. As the PwC report notes, "More than ever, most roads (and flights) lead to London."
England has been creating wealth for its citizens, and the world, for hundreds of years, the PwC report notes. Some of its citizens have more wealth than others, of course. Earlier this month, a new study of the world's wealthiest people found London had more billionaires than any other city.
For people who aren't billionaires, London might be a tough place to live, as it ranked 15th in terms of cost. Cost includes cost of living and cost of business occupancy, among other factors.
Just Tuesday, the radio show "Marketplace" asked whether London was becoming too expensive for poor Londoners. The program noted that more foreign investors are buying up luxury apartments there.
“We’re the minority of London now,” one single mother told the show. “Londoners don't live in London anymore."