Going the Mega-Region Route for Economic Development


Richard Florida — he of The Rise of the Creative Class fame — is writing about economic development in a recent post at The Atlantic Cities. But we’re not talking about counties teaming up for business attraction and retention purposes.

Florida says satellite images of the globe at night were used to identify the world’s 40 “mega regions,” defined as a contiguous lighted area with more than one major city or metropolitan area that produced more than $100 billion in economic output.

In North America, this means 12 mega regions that account for 243 metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada. The combined population is 230 million people (215 million from the U.S., which account for 70% of our population).

The Chi-Pitts region, which includes Indianapolis, has a $2.3 trillion economic output that would make it the world’s seventh largest.

Here is a quick rundown on the 12 creatively-named regions, from largest to smallest:

•Bos-Wash stretches from Boston through New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore to Washington, D.C., a total of 500 miles. It is home to 18 percent of the U.S. population – 56.5 million people. The region generates $3.75 trillion in economic output, meaning that, if Bos-Wash were a separate country, it would be the fourth largest economy in the world, behind only the U.S., China, and Japan and ahead of Germany.

•Chi-Pitts extends north and west from Pittsburgh through Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Minneapolis, taking in more than 50 metros in all. Home to 41.8 million individuals, this mega-region’s economy is just a bit smaller than the United Kingdom’s, about the same size as Brazil’s and bigger than all of Russia’s.

•Char-lanta, which is home to 22 million people, takes in 45 metros, including Atlanta, Georgia; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Birmingham, Alabama. With more than a trillion in economic output, its economy is bigger that South Korea’s, placing it among the world’s 15 largest economies.

•So-Cal runs from L.A. through San Diego and spills into Tijuana, Mexico, accounting for 21.8 million people and more than one trillion in economic output.

•So-Flo includes Miami, Orlando and Tampa and is home to 15 million people. It produces more than $750 billion in economic output, making it about the same size as the Netherlands or Turkey.

•Nor-Cal includes San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and 14 other metros surrounding San Francisco Bay. It has a population of 13 million people and produces more than $900 billion in output, roughly the same as Indonesia and more than Turkey.

•Tor-Buff-Chester stretches north from Buffalo and Rochester, taking in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal in Canada. It has an estimated population of more than 16 million (several smaller Canadian metros are not included in this tally). It generates output of nearly $600 billion, more than Sweden.

•Dal-Austin encompasses Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, Texas. Its population is just under 12 million. It produces more than $700 billion in economic output, more than Sweden or oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

•Hou-Orleans, the great energy-producing belt that stretches from Houston through Mobile, Alabama to New Orleans, is home to more than 10 million people. It produces more than $750 billion in economic output, about the same as the Netherlands.  (Some researchers have suggested combining Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Austin into a single “Texas Triangle.” This mega would include 20 million people, and its $1.5 trillion economy would be comparable to Australia’s and just a bit smaller than India’s or Canada’s.)

•The Cascadia mega-region, which stretches up from Portland, Oregon through Seattle and into Vancouver, Canada, is home to nearly 10 million people. It generates economic output of about $600 billion, comparable to Switzerland

•Phoenix-Tucson is home to more than 5 million people and generates economic output of more than $250 billion, just slightly less than Hong Kong.

•Denver-Boulder has 4.2 million people and $256 billion in economic output, more than Finland, Greece or Ireland. If it were a nation, it would  rank among the world’s 50 largest economies.

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