Jonathan Brun

[:en]Montreal Stores around the World[:]

The economic and political power of cities is on the rise due to changes in the economy and continued migration to urban areas. Montréal, like other cities, must continue to invest in itself if it hopes to compete on the global stage.

As a born and raised Montrealer, I may be biased. Though our city has much to offer, we are often cast in the shadow of larger cities such as Toronto, New York, and Paris. To compete for investment and tourism dollars, Montréal must focus its attention on its killer features. Of course, I think most will agree that we need political and economic reform along with more devolution of power from the province to the municipality and an integrated transportation system to efficiently move goods and people. But beyond reforms, we need something essential to our growth – investment. The quickest path to more revenues is more people, leading to higher property value and more economic activity.

If we want Montréal to become a strong city, it must advertise its specificities on the competitive world stage. We cannot and should not compete with major financial centres such as London, Hong Kong, New York or with the mega-cities of Mexico City, Istanbul and Shenzhen. Montreal is unique in many ways and we should advertise that uniqueness to attract business and tourism. I propose that we capture and bottle the unique Montreal flavour, creating a physical presence for others to taste and visit at home: Montreal Stores.

One simple solution to some of our economic woes is to drive more tourism dollars to our economy. With a 320 million person country next door and a strong US dollar, this should be a straightforward proposition. Instead of promoting ourselves through closed off Canadian Embassies or Québec delegations, we should build on success in the private sector and perhaps the greatest retail experience of all, the Apple Store. An Apple Store lets you test their new products, get consultations on the best products for you and even attend courses, lectures and musical events centred around the company’s products. A Montreal store would follow a similar model.

Having recently visited to New Orleans, I was struck by the number of Americans who traveled to New Orleans to visit the old French Quarter, listen to Jazz, drink cocktails and enjoy fantastic food. Montreal has many of the same cultural and culinary attractions as New Orleans and we are as close to the United States as one can get. The same American tourists who visit New Orleans for a modest amount of diversity and culture are the same tourists we want to visit Montreal. Curious Americans who want some culture, but might not be inclined to travel to Europe or Asia can come to visit us, in Montreal.

To promote our unique attributes and drive tourism to our city, Montreal should establish store fronts in cities around the world (even Canada). I would start with a storefront in the busy tourist filled French Quarter of New Orleans. The same tourists that travel to New Orleans are ones who would be thrilled to come to our Jazz Festival and enjoy our amazing choice of restaurants. This storefront, with an operating cost of a few million dollars a year could be modeled the Apple Store. Instead of iPads and iPhones, we would promote our music, innovation, language (french!), culture and food. The side-by-side promotion of our cultural uniqueness with our high tech industry and generous tax credit system might even incite some companies to open offices here. The goal of each Montreal Store would be to generate more revenue through tourism than it costs to operate, which strikes me as an easy target. The stores could host and promote Montreal musicians, innovative companies, art and culinary showcases to lure new people to our island city.

These tangible stores would help Montreal promote itself as a cultural and business hub for US tourists and businesses. Of course, we must also engage in a number of reforms here at home, but bringing US dollars onto our island would provide some key financing for our other projects. It’s time that Montreal take the bull by the horns and unabashedly promote itself as the fun, francophone and high tech hub that it is.[:]

Published on August 2, 2015