Global Fast Cities

They speak English, and they have the right mix of technology and tolerance to attract talent. They're the international cities competing with the United States for the global talent pool.

Dublin, Ireland

Cornerstones: The combination of reduced corporate taxes, affordable housing, proximity to the European mainland, and a tech-savvy, English-speaking workforce made Ireland's capital city a convenient European base for Dell, Intel, and other blue-chip companies. With a pub on nearly every corner, Dublin has no shortage of "third places," hangouts where newcomers can build their networks over a pint of stout.

Caveats: Dublin's immigration and tolerance scores are lagging compared with other creative centers.

Poster child: Bono. The U2 star and advocate has inspired a music scene in the Temple Bar neighborhood. Look for him and the Edge at the Octagon Bar in the Clarence, a trendy hotel they own.

Helsinki, Finland

Cornerstones: Clean, design-conscious, unpretentious, and safer than most American cities. Located on the Baltic Sea, Helsinki is surrounded by water on three sides and ringed by an archipelago. In the summer, the harbor fills with boats. In winter, it ices over, becoming an exotic dreamscape.

Caveats: Finland scores in the top 10 on Florida's tolerance measures, but that open-mindedness has yet to translate into a more diverse population. Its proportion of foreign-born residents is 2.5%, even lower than Ireland's (10%).

Poster child: Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, the new CEO of Nokia. The world's largest cell-phone maker generates $39 billion in annual revenue and helps make Helsinki one of Europe's new high-tech centers.

Montreal, Quebec

Cornerstones: Multicultural, tolerant, hip, and tech-oriented, it features both Old World European charm and modern high-rises. Among international cities, Montreal boasts the fifth-largest creative-class workforce. Overall job growth ranks in the top five among North American cities. Film production is flourishing: Montreal has more set and sound-stage space than any city in North America.

Caveats: The city, home to four universities, needs to do more to retain its graduates. According to last year's Montreal Health Report, it ranked below most major North American cities in the percentage of the population with undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Poster child: Cirque du Soleil CEO and creative guru Guy Laliberté. His engrossing marriage of engineering and theater is Montreal's best-known creative export.

Sydney, Australia

Cornerstones: Blessed with San Francisco's natural and man-made beauty and L.A.'s temperate climate and laid-back attitude. Sydney's large immigrant population makes it one of the most diverse cities. It represents 180 countries and 140 languages and is Australia's financial center, the Asian-Pacific headquarters for an increasing number of multinationals, and home to more than 300 biotech companies. With 20 local beaches, including the ever-popular Bondi Beach, the city is a yachting, surfing, and sailing mecca.

Caveats: The drawback to adding roughly 1,000 new residents a week and gentrifying urban neighborhoods is that Sydney could lose its distinctive flavor and drive out the artists who made those areas appealing.

Poster child: Sol Trujillo, CEO of Telstra, Australia's largest telco. The Hispanic-American became CEO earlier this year, emblematic of the city's pull for top-class creative talent.

Vancouver, BC

Cornerstones: The creative class makes up more than one-third of the workforce. It's the Hollywood of the video-game industry. The metropolitan area now has more high-tech workers than Seattle and as many as Atlanta. Vancouver has one of the highest percentages of immigrants (31%) of any major city, and the multicultural influence is palpable. You hear it on the street and taste it in the restaurants. Like Montreal, Vancouver scores high in terms of tolerance and has a large gay community. Stanley Park is a 1,000-acre urban oasis (bigger than New York's Central Park). Elsewhere, you can stroll beaches with a view of both downtown and snow-capped mountains. A kayak or canoe is a must for city dwellers.

Caveats: In anticipation of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver is in the midst of a building boom. The population is projected to double by the time the Games roll in. The rapid growth could strain the city's infrastructure and widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Poster child: Glenn Entis, Electronic Arts' chief visual and technical officer, who works at the video-game giant's worldwide studio headquarters in Vancouver.

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