Following the conclusion of State of Green Business 2012, I boarded a plane to Vancouver with Stephan Dolezalek, Managing Director, VantagePoint Venture Partners and one of my fellow panelists at the San Francisco conference, to ask that other “greenish city on a bay” similar questions that were pondered in San Francisco. (As some of you already know, these two cities enjoy a friendly rivalry to see who can be more sustainable and prosperous while still being hip and cool).
The Cities Summit, hosted and organized on February 1-2 by Vancouver’s city government, assembled an interesting group comprised of hundreds of international business and urban leaders. They focused on the design of creative, practical solutions for a sustainable urban future. The city invited me to moderate a session entitled, “City Finance 2.0: Next Generation Urban Infrastructure.” The invitation arose for one good reason: the focus of this Vancouver discussion — the business of city building — closely mirrors the focus of the “2012 Meeting of the Minds,” which Toyota and Cisco and others will convene in San Francisco in October.
Our special session focused on how Vancouver might become more sustainable and better connected, with this statement in mind: “Cities around the world are facing an infrastructure deficit, at the same time as new business models are reshaping the traditional utility industry. That fact is made more challenging by the need to upgrade their transportation, building, and water systems in an era of restrained public finance and environmental challenges.”
The three panelists I was privileged to moderate did an outstanding job exploring the innovative financial and institutional arrangements necessary to involve the private sector in the provision of urban public goods — while protecting the public interest.
On the critical role played by political leaders, the conclusions of the Vancouver discussion did not differ much than those reached in San Francisco. But the role of the private sector in the city’s future emerged a bit more vigorously in the Vancouver, perhaps because of the focus — from the outset of the discussion — on new business models.