Photo: Harvard professor Michael Porter (left) greets Nir Barkat (center), mayor of Jerusalem. On the right, business strategist Yagil Weinberg. (Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)
Jerusalem traces its history back to the fourth millennium BC. But looking to the future, its new mayor is turning to Harvard Business School for advice on American-style economic development.
Nir Barkat, a technology entrepreneur who was elected mayor of Israel’s capital city last November, visited the business school campus yesterday to extol the cluster-based development approach he adopted from Harvard business professor Michael E. Porter, a leading authority on competitiveness. Barkat said Porter’s ideas on competitive advantage form the backbone of his push to revitalize Jerusalem.
“We have a 3,000-year-old brand,” Barkat, 49, told reporters at a briefing in the business school’s Ludcke House. He was flanked by Porter and business strategist Yagil Weinberg, who advises countries in the Middle East on national and regional competitiveness.
Barkat said Jerusalem, the poorest city in Israel, is following Porter’s playbook by building its economy on three existing areas of strength: culture and tourism, healthcare and life sciences, and outsourced medical and financial services. “The whole concept is focusing on areas where we have competitive advantage,” Barkat said.
Porter has worked on economic development in cities ranging from Boston and Columbus, Ohio, to Seoul, South Korea, and Kigali, Rwanda. He said it was hard for him to resist helping Jerusalem, a religious center for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
“Jerusalem’s never had an economic strategy,” Porter said. “It’s never had a systematic economic development campaign that’s strategic.”
As part of his visit to Boston yesterday, Barkat also took part in a roundtable discussion with area business, academic, and media leaders, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Brigham and Women’s Hospital president Gary Gottlieb, Thermo Fisher Scientific chairman Jim Manzi, Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, and New Republic editor in chief Marty Peretz.
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