I've just been interviewed for the 'We Are Cardiff' documentary film. I've been thinking for a while about what it is that makes a place unique, and the best answer that I can come up with is that it's a combination of its environment, history, and future direction.

Take Cardiff, for example. Cardiff is a product of it's location - on the mouth of the river Taff, where it enters the Severn Estuary. It grew throughout the Industrial Revolution from a small settlement to become one of the world's key export centres. Cardiff Docks exploded in size following the completion of the Glamorganshire Canal in 1794, allowing the connection of Merthyr to Cardiff. It was further expanded when it came under competition from newer docks in Penarth and Barry. This later expansion comprised the opening of the Roath Dock in 1887 and the Queen Victoria Dock in 1907. The docks were a driving force in making Cardiff into the place it is today, bringing huge numbers of people from different cultures to the settlement, and creating 'Tiger Bay'.

In terms of history, it became a City in 1907 following mass expansion of the population during the Industrial Revolution, and was subsequently made the Capital City of Wales in 1955. Between these dates the City had acquired it's first and only FA Cup (Cardiff City beating Arsenal in 1927, 20 years after renaming themselves as Cardiff City and 17 years after moving into Ninian Park). Throughout the ninteenth and twentieth century the City became a regional manufacturing centre, synonymous with shipbuilding and iron and steel making.  Later in the century, the emphasis shifted towards the tertiary economy, with a reduction in manufacturing output being made up for by the increase in employment by service sector organisations. There has also been a noticeable increase in academic employment. Cardiff now has three Universities and a number of private 'Sixth Form' colleges.

This economic shift is potentially challenging, though. Whereas with manufacturing there is a fairly strict limit to the number of potential competitors, when dealing with the service sector there are few such limits. All that a company such as Admiral Insurance needs to carry out its business is excellent communications infrastructure, an educated workforce, and a favourable business climate. So far, Cardiff is proving to be fairly resilient, but will come under increasing competition from countries like Brazil, Russia, India and China as well as from the rest of the English speaking world. Cardiff is now competing with not just Newport, but also Newcastle, New York and New Delhi.

There are certainly opportunities here, as well as the more obvious threats. If the City is able to differentiate itself as being a first-class place to live, then there is a far greater chance that the entrepreneurs and job-creators of the future will choose to invest in the City-region of Cardiff, rather than anywhere else. However, if the City does not invest in both communications and transport infrastructure, then it may well begin to stagnate. 

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