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Globalisation has impacted both the balance of economic power between cities as well as the distribution of economic activities within them. Studies focusing on the impacts of globalisation often investigate one or the other, but rarely tie the two together. In Australian cities, central business districts (CBDs) and inner suburbs since the 1980s have become revalorised as strategic sites for multinational firm activities, complementing an already robust agglomeration of commodities-oriented firms, domestic manufacturing, and state-led industries. This paper compares the spatial organisation of Australian firm activity across Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. It first focuses on how the firms of each of these cities extend overseas through global branch office operations, and then shifts to the distribution of firms within each capital city region. Data are drawn from a complete set of 2196 listed Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) firms with operations in more than 100 countries. We find that while the mix of industries differs significantly between cities, the overall industrial patterns observed are relatively consistent from one city to the next. Australian cities are economically fairly centralised and services-oriented industries in particular are most prominent within CBDs. Sydney’s firms are found to be the most globalised, although all cities have significant numbers of global firms. However, we find that locational requirements are significantly varied from one industry to the next and between firm headquarters and branches. This has implications for planning cities to meet firm requirements in an economy that is digital and globally connected, and for national-level policy that distributes core economic competencies amongst Australian cities.
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