In today's Toronto Star, John Spears takes a look at Invest Toronto and Build Toronto, sister agencies designed to increase investment and development in the city. One of the most interesting ideas comes from Greg Clark, a "London-based economic development guru who advises cities around the globe."
Clark argues that Toronto needs a core identity, one that everyone can easily understand. Among his examples are Miami ("Everyone can tell you that Miami is on the road to becoming the business hub and the capital city of the pan-American economy") and Hong Kong ("Any taxi driver will tell you Hong Kong is going to be the first city in the world where the Chinese language and system and the English language and system are going to be used by everybody, all the time. It will be completely bilingual in Chinese and English.")
So what is our core identity?
When people in Boston, Bombay, and Barcelona hear "Toronto", what should spring to mind? Hating Toronto is a beloved national pastime, but any time I'm in a foreign city, people have nothing but good things to say about us. They sincerely praise our politeness and clean streets, to be sure, but also speak highly of our cosmopolitanism, which seems to me the true center of our city's character. But can pluralism make for a coherent unifying identity? I believe so, but perhaps not in precisely the way Clark intends.
Or, as one Invest Toronto participant suggested, should we forget about forging a "core story" and simply market ourselves as a great place to visit in the winter?
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