Globalization and Megaregions

Vincent Goodstadt

Forum Speaker Vicent Goodstadt - "Global Implications of Our Growing Megaregion"

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With more than 2,000 international companies employing nearly 115,000 employees in the metro region, Atlanta’s dependence on the global economy is obviously significant.

And vice versa.

Metro Atlanta, home to the world’s busiest airport, is the hub through which goods sold on the east coast are shipped. Home to 49 foreign consulates, 31 foreign-American chambers of commerce and 16 trade and tourism offices, metro Atlanta competes on a global level. If it were a country, metro Atlanta would be the 28th largest economy in the world.

But a new economic trend is emerging that stands to shift the balance of those with economic fortune and those without.

The last several years has seen the birth and development of the idea of the “megaregion,” a new concept of economic, social and spatial relations. At its broadest, a megaregion can be defined as a series of urban agglomerations, linked by social, cultural, demographic, economic and political ties, which could benefit from large-scale infrastructure and land development planning.

An economic phenomenon, urban agglomerations – megaregions -- around the world are starting to form stronger internal ties along economic, infrastructural and cultural lines in an effort to remain competitive in the global market place.

For example, the European Union has formed a continent-wide network of transportation and energy distribution, a shared coordination of legal and administrative frameworks and a single currency – all of which has helped to forge the EU into one of the world’s dominate economies.

The Randstad area of Holland is come together to promote four Dutch provinces into a single, interconnected region, with the Randstarapid transportation network that has already increased economic competitiveness.

In China, high-speed trains and other more traditional transportation modes have been used to establish greater links between cities in the Pearl River Delta, creating another economic powerhouse that will remain competitive for decades.

In 50 years, how will metro Atlanta compare to such megaregions?

One of the common themes of these megaregions is a multi-city transportation network that’s accessible enough to encourage and foster economic activity.

To which cities could, or should, metro Atlanta link to?

Georgia Tech’s Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development has identified an emerging megaregion of which the Atlanta region would be a central member.

The Piedmont Atlantic MegaRegion (PAM) is composed of core metropolitan areas, including Birmingham, Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham. The core is characterized by the greatest density of people and highest intensity of travel and economic interaction. PAM also contains numerous major cities; many of them are important government, academic and business centers.

The fact that more than 60 percent of Savannah’s container volume comes from China doesn’t just speak to how much China is exporting to the U.S. It also demonstrates how important the Southeast is to international trade and how Savannah is to the economy of the southeast.

There are also several gateway cities, including the sea port cities of Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville and Mobile; and major rail and airport cities, like Nashville and Atlanta. These gateway cities provide important domestic and international links that facilitate the flow of goods, people, information and culture.

All of the cities are connected not only to each other, but also to the numerous small cities and large swaths of rural and undeveloped land that surround them.

But is current connection through PAM adequate to maintain global competitiveness? Should Atlanta be better connected to other cities in the megaregion? What is metro Atlanta’s role in the megaregion, if any? How does participation in the megaregion improve metro Atlanta’s (and Georgia’s) standing in the global economy?

Read up on the concept of megaregions at the Georgia Tech site here and see what is being done nationally. Join the discussion on our blog and send us your ideas, or send us examples of what other areas around the nation and world are doing.