Archive for the ‘Financial services’ Category

Time to move on investment hubs

November 6, 2007

A US colleague recently asked me where the main investment hubs were in Australia. She said she knew about Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, but after cruising the various websites she was more confused than never. A week later a chap from Switzerland asked roughly the same question.

I replied that there’s no consensus or considered view on this. However it got me thinking – investment is the key to economic development. So could we develop a framework of investment hubs that could be marketed to local and foreign investors, both large and small? In coming months, I will address all states and territories.

 Here are my initial impressions of the competitive advantages held by the main hot spots, and the themes around which investment hubs could be positioned. First up is Queensland. The key point here is that the state government is pretty aggressive about its ED agendas, and is one of the more ‘regional thinking’ states.

Let’s start at the Top End and work south. I figure there are 10 latent investment hubs there.

Cairnswhere the competitive advantage lies in co-location of tropical reef and rainforests; international airport; proximity to Asia and the Pacific Islands.

  • Hub angles – sustainable tourism; tropical health & medicine; aviation (including Outback); marine industries; international aid.

Townsville – access to Barrier Reef; Defence bases; Mt. Isa connection; international airport.   

  • Hub angles – minerals processing; defence technology; tropical health & medicine; aviation.

 Mackay – proximity to coal and mineral resources; access to Barrier Reef.   

  • Hub angles – minerals processing; mining technology; export of containerised food and agricultural product.

 Gladstone – minerals processing & energy facilities; port infrastructure; civic buildings.  

  • Hub angles – as for Mackay, but with additional energy aspect.

 Sunshine Coast – natural beauty; environmental icons; educated, well-heeled population; lifestyle image.  

  • Hub angles – education; environmental management; creative industries; smart Internet-based companies; new age technology (food, construction etc.)

 Brisbane – Australia’s third city; climate; competitive cost of living; excellent airport and adjacent precinct.

  • Hub angles – financial services; aviation; ICT; biotechnology and wider life sciences; education; logistics; construction.

 Ipswich Road corridor – engineering capability; competitively-priced land; access to Brisbane port and airport. 

  • Hub angles – heavy engineering; building and construction; logistics.

 Toowoomba – service centre for Darling Downs; climate; rural lifestyle.   

  • Hub angles – food processing; agricultural and water equipment & services; environmental management; light engineering.

 Logan Corridor – access to airport & port; manufacturing capability.

  • Hub angles – light engineering; food processing; logistics.

 Gold Coast – natural beauty; tourism icons; lifestyle and entertainment.

  • Hub angles – as for Sunshine Coast, but wider-scale e.g. marine engineering, medical services.

 These are indicative only, and we welcome any additions or comment. Contact us at for further information

Development nodes in the Netherlands

October 17, 2007

 Johan Visser of the Netherlands Government has kindly sent us a very good document ‘Peaks in the Delta – regional economic perspectives’, released by CEG Van Gennip, Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade.  

The document, released in 2004, outlines the economic drivers, infrastructure and innovation nodes etc. that the Dutch see as critical to their future economic and trade performance. Its particular worth is how it positions spatial issues within industry, innovation and trade perspectives. 

The section dealing with the Randstad North Wing and Utrecht region is instructive. Knowledge clusters around the universities and HBO institutes can provide key leads for new industry and productivity development. The region’s location along a number of European main connecting axes also opens up opportunities for advanced logistics, especially on the south flank of Gelderland. To realise these prospects, the following minimum conditions must be met: 
§          closer cooperation between research institutes and regional businesses.
§          development of high quality business locations, where quality of the regional landscape is preserved.
§          improved accessibility for the economic centres in the Eastern Netherlands.
      a greater cross-border focus by the authorities, research institutes and businesses e.g. part of Euregion. 

The spatial economic network in the Northwestern Netherlands stretches from the metropolitan centres of North Holland via Almere and het Gooi to the cities of Utrecht and Amersfoort. The region covers 16% of the surface area and 29% of national employment.   The main economic engine is Schiphol airport, which attracts concentrations of transport and logistics-based activities. Partly through its proximity to Schiphol, Greater Amsterdam is a leading centre of top international services (financial sector), management-related activities (head offices), ICT and international tourism.

The greenhouse and bulb-growing sectors (Aalsmeer auction) are also leading international centres. The industrial activities to the west and north of Amsterdam (such as the Corus steel industry and the agrifood cluster) benefit from the presence of the North Sea ports, with Amsterdam being Europe’s fifth largest maritime port. As a national road and rail hub, Utrecht is a centre for nationally-oriented service provision.  The infrastructure in the Utrecht region is vital for the economic functioning of the Netherlands.

Other important clusters are the international conference sector (which centres on Amsterdam and Utrecht) and the multimedia cluster (Gooi-Amsterdam). 

US look at rural clusters

October 15, 2007

 An Economic Development Administration-sponsored research report offers a comprehensive analysis of how regional business clusters can transform rural economies. The study looks at clusters across rural USA.    
Most clusters are located in urban regions, but rural areas dominate in mining, agribusiness and forest/wood products. Nationally, the clusters most associated with strong regional economic performance are business and financial services, ICT, and printing and publishing. Overall, human capital is the critical factor explaining differences in income growth between counties.  

Go to Unlocking Rural Competitiveness: The Role of Regional Clusters

Utah goes cluster route

October 17, 2006

Within days of taking office in January 2005, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. dismantled the Department of Community and Economic Development and promised to make significant changes to how Utah approaches wealth generation and economic growth.

He kept that promise by unveiling a new cluster-based strategy around seven industry sectors – life sciences; software development & IT; aerospace; defense & homeland security; financial services; energy & natural resources; competitive accelerators (e.g. nanotechnology, advanced manufacturing.)  

Go to 

 Source: TA 3 Connections 

Letter from Singapore – rethinking development strategies

February 23, 2004

Our man in Singapore is Andrew Symon, a consultant/analyst and a visiting research fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore. ( Andrew has worked throughout Asia since 1992. 

Last year’s Sars influenza epidemic scare, combined with the Iraq war and fear of terrorism in SE Asia has underlined Singapore’s vulnerability to external shocks.

They resulted in a collapse of tourist and business visitors in the first half of 2003, badly damaging the island state. The loss of income was dramatic, revealing just how dependent the Singapore economy is on retail, hotel, restaurant, entertainment, conference and airline industries and the flows of foreign visitors that support them.

 The shocks may be one off events, and the government has been extremely effective in overcoming the health danger of Sars by stringent detection and quarantine measures, and severe policing against the threat of terrorism.

But the damage has frightened both policy makers and the public. Now, at the start of 2004, there is the spectre of the avian influenza virus outbreak having a similar impact.  The last few years, not just 2003, have been hard ones for Singapore. Economic recovery after the Asian financial crisis of 1997/98 was only patchy. In 2001, Singapore fell into recession. In response, the government established an economic review committee, which has recommended:
§          immediate reduction in costs affecting business,
§          longer term strategies to encourage professional services and high value added industries,
§          the inculcation of a more entrepreneurial spirit in locally-owned companies.  

Nothing here is a radical departure. Ever since the early 1990s, encouragement has been given to the development of biomedical, precision engineering, petrochemical and transport – aerospace – marine engineering clusters alongside the computer/electronics, financial and sophisticated services.

But there is a greater sense of urgency now. The goal of fashioning Singapore as a regional hub for professional services underpins the government’s enthusiasm to sign FTAs with Australia, the European Free Trade Association, New Zealand and the US. FTA discussions are ongoing with Canada, China and Mexico.  

Meanwhile, Singapore’s traditional strength as a regional shipping and aviation center continues to be challenged by Malaysia. Malaysia’s southern Johore port of Tanjung Pelapas has been boosted by use of its facilities by Danish shipper Mearsk and Taiwan’s Evergreen.  And, a frenzy of activity now in the emerging budget airline segment, led by Malaysia’s AirAsia, is also worrying Singapore as budget operators look to airports other than Singapore’s Changi to base their services because of lower costs.

Northern Milan – best practice

October 25, 2003

Development agencies tend not to live up to their slick brochures. However we have heard about this agency from a number of sources. This snapshot is courtesy of LEED, the OECD group. 

The Northern Milan Development Agency (ASNM) is often cited as a benchmark for Europe.

It is a semi-public company – among its shareholders are municipalities, the province of Milan, the chamber of commerce, a venture capital firm created by the region (FinLombardia), the State financial company SVI Lombardia, and a large panel of firms (Falck, ABB, Edilmarelli etc.).

It has roughly 1 million euros in capital, of which 68% is publicly owned, 22% is owned by mixed bodies and 10% by private companies. 

Its main activities are:
§          Reindustrialisation – 4 industrial districts, 2 incubators (40 start-ups), urban regeneration.
§          Technology/Innovation – teletraining centre, multimedia cluster.
§          Environment – Agenda 21, sustainable mobility, environmental clean-ups.
§          SME services – info point, financial services, tutoring & training etc.
§          Networking – at local, national and international levels.
§          Local strategies – links into communications, energy plans.
§          Communication/Marketing – events, communications, with local and international agencies, international competition for urban park.