For Release Friday, August 3, 2012
If you want to understand the global economy, look at an aerial photo of the world at night. It is, quite literally, enlightening: Unlike typical maps, delineated by so many politically drawn boundaries and pastel tones, the world after dark sheds light on what unites us, beyond the city or suburb or state in which we live.
At night, the mega-regions of our global economy — areas like greater New York, Boston and Philadelphia in the U.S., or London, Paris and Lyon in Europe — are aglow, thanks to their interconnected cities and suburbs, highways and train lines, businesses and industries.
Along the western and southern shores of Lake Michigan, you’ll see a band of light connecting Milwaukee, Wis., Chicago, and Gary, Ind. In March 2012, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released a competitiveness analysis of the regional economy encompassing these three cities and their 21 surrounding counties, 470-plus suburbs and 11 million people. Their scope was informed by global investment decision-makers who view this mega-region — our region — as an economic whole.
Curiously, that’s not how we’ve traditionally seen ourselves. For many public and private sector leaders in the tri-state area this perspective — and OECD’s 300-page, tri-state review, the first analysis of its kind they’ve published on a U.S. mega-region — was a revelation, almost like seeing our region lit up, at 3,000-feet, for the first time.
Historically, we’ve bickered over stolen slices of the pie — a headquarters that moves from Milwaukee to Chicago for a tax break or a company wooed from Chicago to Indiana for similar reasons. What’s promising is that our mega-region’s leaders are starting to realize it’s not only counterproductive to snitch from a shared pie, but that we could be spending our economic development energy to bake a bigger pie to feed us all.