NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Megapolitan Areas Compete Globally

December 2, 2011

The long-struggling U.S. economy has made once-competing municipalities more receptive to a message of broad-based economic collaboration.  They're reaching across county lines and even state borders and aligning themselves into various economic blocs.  Some argue that this increasing tendency marks the birth of a new geography: "megapolitans," regions that encompass cities and counties linked through manmade and natural connections such as shared transportation networks, labor markets or water supplies.  Researchers recognize how this has already developed and have predicted the way it will continue to progress in the near future, says USA Today.

  • By 2040, they predict there will be 10 distinct clusters composed of 23 megapolitan areas in the contiguous 48 states.
  • Each of these megapolitan areas will have at least one metropolitan area of 2 million people that's connected -- via commuting patterns -- to at least one other metro area of more than 250,000 people.
  • Some of these areas contain multiple megapolitan areas that are relatively spread out, such as the four areas that constitute the Great Lakes cluster, while others are constituted by only a single megapolitan area and are relatively isolated, such as the Twin Cities cluster in Minnesota.

The gradual development of these economic blocs speaks to the changing arena of competition as the world becomes more globalized.  By consciously diverting efforts away from competition with one's neighbors, regional powers will be better able to compete with other distant blocs, or so the theory states.  A prudent example is that of Tucson and Phoenix, two cities that by combining economically into the Sun Corridor megapolitan area can better compete with the Houston and Piedmont (includes Atlanta, Charlotte and other southeastern cities) areas.

This increased cooperation with municipal neighbors demonstrates public recognition of the effects of globalization, and that international competition will be thoroughly augmented if municipalities can collaborate.  This leads to increased comparative advantage and specialization, and allows economic cluster blocs to focus on doing what they do best.

Source: Haya El Nasser, "Megapolitan Areas Compete Globally," USA Today, November 29, 2011.

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