Medellín City Performance, Brand Image and Reputation

In recent years, Medellín has become famous thanks to Netflix and their Narcos series. Whether it has given the city a positive image is another question. In 2013, Medellín was elected the world’s most innovative city by the Urban Land Institute. What do the different indices say about the city’s progress, five years later?

Learn about:

  • Medellín's attractiveness as place for doing business
  • Its urban innovation performance
  • Medellín and sustainability

Charles Landry on Medellín:

In what feels like the blink of an eye, Medellin has become the poster child of urban transformation, as the days of Pablo Escobar and cartel drugs crime are over. In 2013, out of a list of 200 cities, Medellín was chosen as ‘Innovative City of the Year’ by the Wall Street Journal, Citibank and the Urban Land Institute. It competes with Bogota as the innovation centre of Colombia.

Yet its launch into a hipster hangout – it is the top South American city on Nomadlist - was based on civic creativity.

As former mayor Fajardo noted: ‘Our most beautiful buildings must be in our poorest areas’ – remember the iconic public libraries in the favelas. Most importantly, a new metro system, cable cars and escalators knit the fragmented city centre together and made it safer.

This public realm creativity made the platform upon which Meddelín's start-up ecology has been able to flourish.

Medellín as place for doing business

How attractive is Medellín for new businesses?

Medellín is Colombia’s second largest city and its contribution is around 11% of the national GDP, according to the Green Cities index. World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business sub-national economy rankings showed that Medellín is the 4th best place to do business in Colombia. The complexity of paying taxes and dealing with construction permits is what seems to be making entrepreneurship difficult in Medellín.

Medellín and urban innovation

How much emphasis is Medellín putting on innovation to advance the city’s progress?

The Urban Land Institute elected Medellín the world’s most innovative city in 2013, leaving behind it New York and Tel Aviv. This prize was given to Medellín thanks to its participatory politics and its urban renewal projects that brought cable cars and electric stairs to some of the city’s poorest areas.

In the Innovation Cities 2018, Medellín did not score as high – positioned 141st among the 500 cities that formed part of the study. Medellín’s one-time recognition as a center of innovation might not be enough to keep the city’s reputation high.

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The Editorial Team

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