I recently participated in a session at the 6th annual Global Competitiveness Forum, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The overall theme of the event focused on the positive impact of competition on economic and social development around the world. More specifically, I spoke on the emergence of the aerotropolis and the opportunities it presents for the development of cities. As a concept developed by John D. Kasarda and Greg Lindsay in their book “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next“, an aerotropolis is an urban form whose layout, infrastructure, and economy is centered on an airport, offering its businesses speedy connectivity to suppliers, customers, and enterprise partners worldwide.
Globalization lies at the root of the aerotropolis. Beginning hundreds of years ago, globalization started with the basic premise of transporting physical goods between nations. As we moved into the 1980s, we saw the emergence of global manufacturing. The 1990s then ushered in the growth of global R&D. Over the last five years or so, we have transitioned into what I call the globalization of the corporate brain. We are beginning to think and act globally about our innovation, growth and talent in the corporate space – it’s all about co-creation and talent. As a global community, we have evolved from the pure transportation of physical goods to the transportation of goods and intellect.
Let’s talk a little about why the aerotropolis has gained momentum. Historically, cities have built their airports on the periphery of their borders. The land area, noise and other issues that come with airports have largely been the reasons behind this. However, times have changed, and in today’s (still) goods-based economy, planners are seeing that this layout is not conducive to developing the local economy.