Sustained Outrage

The case for nurturing metropolitan areas

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The map above is from “MetroNation: How U.S. Metropolitan Areas Fuel American Prosperity,” a2007 report by Brookings’  Metropolitan Policy Program. It shows the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas by employment in 2005. Note the conspicuous lack of dots anywhere in West Virginia.

State Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, cites this report support of forming a metro government for Charleston and Kanawha County, something he has been talking about for years.

The report is part of the Blueprint for American Prosperity, a project of Brookings, a Washington policy study group. The project recommends federal policy reforms to help the nation’s metro areas grow and compete in the world economy. This report by Alan Berube, research director and fellow at the Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program, spells out the contributions that metropolitan areas make to the national economy.

“Despite consuming just 12 percent of our land mass, the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas harbor 65 percent of our population, and generate 75 percent of our gross domestic product,” Berube writes. (The complete report is also here.)

According to the report, metropolitan areas include large and small cities, old and new suburbs and even exurbs and rural areas that have interwoven labor and housing markets and share common economic destinies.

Metro areas have three broad characteristics that contribute to their prosperity:

1. Innovation, including rates of new patents, research and development investment and venture capital.

2. Human capital, the educational attainment of the population and knowledge jobs.

3. Infrastructure, including vehicle/transit miles, passenger and cargo volume and broadband availability.

Here are a few more excerpts from the 65-page report:

— “Beyond this paper’s focus on the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, an additional 263 U.S. smaller metro areas collectively contain about 18 percent of the nation’s population,” the report says. “Like the major metros, each of these smaller metros is composed of intertwined cities and suburbs, and many contain the types of assets also aggregated in their larger brethren. For example, Huntington, W.Va. (the 176th largest metro area by employment) has the nation’s largest inland river port.

–  “Many of these metropolitan counties contain significant rural territory, which the Census Bureau defines as low-density areas and towns of 2,500 or fewer people. In fact, more than half (51 percent) of all rural residents, amounting to over 30 million people as of Census 2000, live in metropolitan counties.

“These rural areas form part of the commuter sheds for their associated urban areas, while providing valuable resources and close-by access to natural amenities for communities closer to the metropolitan core.”

— Lower cost labor and business costs can make smaller metros and rural areas attractive places to locate business process operations.

— The map below, another page from the Brookings report, compares the global economic output of the world’s major metropolitan areas.

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