IBM’s Pelino: What will the future hold for cities?

by Dan Rafter

Dan Pelino, general manager of IBM’s global public sector, drew a crowd early today for his opening-day presentation — titled “The Future is Not What It Used to Be” — at the Urban Land Institute’s fall meeting at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

This isn’t surprising. Pelino spent much of his presentation taking about the future of cities, and that’s a core issue for attendees at today’s conference.

Pelino made time for some fun, too, pointing to the video below as one example of how the future most hold a bit of whimsy, especially when it comes to the urban world. Wouldn’t you enjoy taking a walk up a piano staircase? (Thanks to the Urban Land Institute for inserting this video on its fall conference Web site.)

Pelino said that 70 percent of the world’s population will live in just 200 cities by the year 2050. And these cities will then boast 75 percent of the skilled labor in the world and 91 percent of the global economy.

That begs the question: What happens to those cities not fortunate enough to rank in Pelino’s top 200?

For Pelino, the key is healthcare and education. He pointed to his own hometown, Rochester, N.Y., which in 2005 saw their three biggest employers implode. What did city leaders do? The smart thing, according to Pellino. They encouraged investment in health care and education, inspiring local leaders to sink their dollars into hospitals and colleges.

This has paid off.

Pelino says that Rochester today ranks as the third-most attractive U.S. city for business. IBM alone employs more than 900 people in the city.

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