The man who had a pivotal role in helping Manchester become one of the world’s most influential cities has sung the praises of Aberdeen.
During a two-day visit to the Granite City, Sir Howard Bernstein spoke to the Evening Express about the challenges the city faces in diversifying its industry as the oil and gas sector declines.
In March, the global property firm Colliers International rated Manchester as the third most influential city after London and Paris.
This is in sharp contrast to Manchester’s struggles back in the 1980s when manufacturing suffered a major downturn.
Sir Howard said: “In Manchester, we probably responded to that downturn too late because industry had largely disappeared before the process of diversification started.
“Clearly, that’s not the case here, so Aberdeen is acting much more intelligently and earlier than Manchester did.
“What I’ve seen and heard during my visit to Aberdeen gives me every confidence that people in the city are doing all the right things.”
Sir Howard was Manchester City Council’s chief executive for 19 years before stepping down last March.
He helped oversee the city’s recovery from the devastating 1996 IRA bombing to the success of the 2002 Commonwealth Games and the construction of landmarks, such as the City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester Aquatics Centre and the Urbis museum.
Sir Howard said it was important for organisations to act selflessly and work together for the good of the city.
He said: “My advice would be to think of the place rather than the organisation – and there’s plenty of evidence that’s happening.
“I’ve been hugely impressed with the levels of engagement here from civic leaders, the business community and the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce.”
One measure of how Aberdeen responds to economic challenges would be how many students stay in the city after graduation, Sir Howard said.
“We’re now seeing in Manchester, for the first time in 20 years, that the majority of the 100,000 students are staying on after graduation.
“That is a measure of the maturity of a city.
“Part of the long-term success of Aberdeen will inevitably be how many more young people you can attract to live and work in this city and how you will transform the industrial sectors.
“Aberdeen is very fortunate here to have so many committed and passionate people.”