City of Malaga offers ‘the benefits of a modern city, but not the headaches’
Marc Sanderson outlines Malaga’s smart city innovations and benefits for businesses and citizens alikeShow transcript
Malaga – Spain’s sixth-largest city – has been transforming itself into an innovative smart city. Home to one of the region’s most important technology parks, the opportunities for innovation and – of course – beautiful Mediterranean climate, have attracted people from over 150 different countries to make Malaga their home. Marc Sanderson, Director of International Economic Development for the City of Malaga, explains his office’s mission, the support it offers to businesses seeking a new home in Europe, and the benefits of living and working in Malaga.
The New Economy: Marc, what’s the core mission – the ambition – at the heart of the work you’re doing for the city?
Marc Sanderson: Well, as an employee for the city of Malaga, we certainly want to provide a better quality of life and jobs for the citizens of Malaga. And the best way we can do that is provide a dynamic and diverse economy. So right now we’re trying to help local companies expand their trade and services around the world, as well as bring international businesses to Malaga. We feel there’s a lot of benefits that the city offers to international companies when they relocate in Malaga, and they obviously create jobs, spend money, and create value for the city.
From the city we offer soft landing services, so we help companies do initial analysis of Malaga and the market, and find out prices for employment, as well as for office space, so they can get a general idea of what it’s going to cost. Try and make it as easy as possible for them to take away the headaches of what it may be to open up a location in the city, as well as provide visas if they’re bringing employees outside of the European Union.
The benefits I think are the operating costs overall. The general cost of living in Malaga is fairly cheap; for office space, but also energy, transportation. So you can offer businesses a way to save money.
The New Economy: And being in Malaga, those businesses can then offer their employees just a wonderful quality of life?
Marc Sanderson: Sure – Malaga’s obviously on the southern coast of Spain, so it enjoys the Mediterranean lifestyle. So it’s a very easy city, enjoyable city to live in.
We always say that it has lots of the benefits of a major city, but not all the headaches: traffic and pollution and congestion. And certainly for myself, the work-life balance: you know, being able to allow my kids to enjoy the beach and at the same time being able to work in a city like Malaga. So for little money you can enjoy a great life on the Mediterranean Sea. So that’s an added plus for the employees; but again, the businesses are also benefitting from the lower costs.
The New Economy: What has changed in business that cities have to create this kind of environment to be competitive in today’s landscape?
Marc Sanderson: You know the business models have changed. It used to be large companies would outsource to far-away locations. Nowadays with advances in technology, the ability to work in different locations and from home, employees are demanding more flexible working environments – and certainly more enjoyable environments as well. So in that case Malaga becomes a very attractive alternative for companies. It combines a nice Mediterranean lifestyle and climate, but also technology park and businesses taking place there as well.
Malaga wants to be a smart city, it wants to be an innovative city, it wants to be a sustainable city. So we have projects around electric mobility, water efficiency. We also have an urban laboratory where companies can come in, use the city as their test bed. We’re very fortunate the Spanish digital content Lab is located in Malaga. This project is bringing in lots of new innovative technologies around 3D animation, graphics, as well as video games and design. So it’s exciting times in Malaga.
The New Economy: You personally have been living and working in Malaga for 10 years now; what sort of changes have you seen in the city over that time?
Marc Sanderson: Well, the city has changed dramatically over the last 20 years; but I think over the last 10 years that I’ve been there it’s also changed quite a bit.
When I first arrived there were just over 12 million passengers arriving to the Malaga airport, and last year we eclipsed 19 million passengers, so it’s been quite a growth as far as people arriving to the city.
We’ve opened up the train station as well, so the high speed rail takes us to Madrid in just 2.5 hours, where before it was 4.5 hours. So there’ve been lots of improvements in infrastructure. The metro system has opened and is expanding in the city as well. I’ve personally seen the openings of the Carmen Thyssen Museum, the Centre Pompidou from France, as well as a Russian art museum.
So the cultural offerings in the city have also expanded. As well as lots of pedestrian spaces in the downtown area. It’s really opened up the city, made it more enjoyable. There’s no noise from cars and traffic, and you’re very close to the sea. And so in just a short walk you’re along the port and enjoying the Mediterranean Sea.
The New Economy: And what about in the next 10 years: what are the goals that you have in mind for the city?
Marc Sanderson: Well, we want to continue to evolve as a smart city, as an innovative city. We want to be an option for not only employees and their companies, but also for citizens to live there.
So right now we have different plans – to build an auditorium, for example, in the port area. To continue with the cultural offerings.
We’re working right now again on digital content, so we’re doing lots of filming, editing and design around 3D graphics and animation. So I think the city has evolved, but it still has a long way to go, and it will continue to move in the right direction.
And ultimately I think citizens, individuals, are looking for companies and businesses that agree with their philosophy. And so having an office in Malaga, is a way for a company to demonstrate to their employees that they care about them, they want the work-life balance; and what a great place to live, in Malaga!
The New Economy: Marc, thank you very much.
Marc Sanderson: Thank you.