Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich urged members of the financial services industry to adopt a grassroots campaign to save New York City as the world's financial center, a cause that may soon be embraced by his tax-exempt group American Solutions for Winning the Future.

   "London may pass New York in a few years as the world's financial capital," warned the former House Speaker on Wednesday evening in Atlanta. He made his remarks in a panel discussion with former Democratic congressman Harold Ford Jr., now a vice chairman at Merrill Lynch. The panel was moderated by Fox News host Fred Barnes before 1,200 financial advisors at a conference sponsored by FSC Securities Corp. and Advantage Capital Corp., both part of AIG Advisor Group.

   Gingrich said the American government should adopt what he dubbed a "Keep New York First" package that addresses measures such as revising immigration controls, curbs on lawsuits against corporations and how Sarbanes Oxley is implemented. If it doesn't, he said, "we will pay for it for generations."

   Gingrich said that losing New York's exclusive global positioning will have dire implications across the country, from increasing the costs to underwrite municipal bonds that finance schools, hospitals, bridges and other public works, to maintaining domestic stock exchanges that attract international investors and issuers.

   Though both Gingrich and Ford recently participated in a forum held in New York City sponsored by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to discuss strategies to ensure the city's premiere ranking, they said it was not just a regional issue, but one that financial professionals around the country should embrace. "Write your congressman, write your local newspaper, explain it to the Kiwanis Club," Gingrich advised his audience, adding that his non-partisan American Solutions organization may be adding the issue to its current agenda of internet workshops that bring together citizens, activists and legislators around the country in political dialogue aimed at finding innovative solutions.  

-Linda Keslar