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 Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 21:35 GMT
Globalisation forum mulls NYC's future
WEF forum panel
Political and business leaders focus on New York

A year ago, world and business leaders gathered in Davos, Switzerland, focused their concern on a technology-stock meltdown that threatened to harm economies around the globe.

A scant year later, attendees to the World Economic Forum (WEF), now underway in New York, are trying to answer questions of far greater magnitude.

Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
Police guard the entrance to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
Indeed, the change of venue itself was the source of much discussion as those attending mused over the novelty of being in the bright lights of New York and not the small village of Davos.

Beyond the change of location, the 3,000 attendees to the annual meeting debated the significance of the 11 September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, leaving some to wonder if they were a series of tremors or one big earthquake.

Rudy speaks

Early in the day, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani told reporters the city had been greatly affected by the attacks of 11 September, which felled the twin towers of the World Trade Center, killing about 3,000 people.

Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani
Giuliani: "New York is more legendary than ever before"
"[But] not in the way most people think," he said, adding the city had been strengthened by the attacks even as New York and its people are still recovering.

There is an economic benefit implicit in the rebuilding process, Mr Giuliani said, "[that] gives the people of this city great strength".

"New York is more legendary than ever before," the former mayor said, choosing his words carefully.

Business leaders chime in

At about noon New York business leaders gathered at the elegant Palace Hotel, a few blocks West of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel where attendees to the WEF have gathered.

Over a lunch of lemon chicken and pasta, chief executives of several New York-based businesses sought to answer questions about the future vitality of New York.

We have a determination that America will become stronger than before

Henry McKinnell
Pfizer Chief Executive
The question is a valid one given recent announcements by investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter to move outside Manhattan to Jersey City and suburban Westchester County, respectively.

Moves such as these leave many in the business community worried over whether New York will be able to lease available office space in the downtown business district, which includes the 16-acre World Trade Center complex.

Re-employing workers

One of those more hopeful than worried is Henry McKinnell, chief executive at Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company that has been based in New York for 153 years.

He said he hopes the redevelopment of the World Trade Center complex will include a structure - not necessarily a building - that will exceed the height of the twin towers.

"We have a determination that America will become stronger than before," Mr McKinnell said.

Local tourism officials are grateful to have the business the WEF generates.

Hotels, restaurants and retail stores have been hurt in significant ways by the terrorist attacks, as Americans and overseas tourists postponed travel plans.

Tourism is a $25bn (17.7bn) business that employs 300,000 people, mostly through smaller businesses in New York.

The WEF is "leading by example", said Tim Zagat, chairman NYC & Co, "by re-employing some of the 40,000 workers displaced by 11 September".

World leaders and business executives converge on New York for the World Economic Forum


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