Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bigger than Charlotte, bigger than Atlanta ...


If you haven't heard the term before, you'll be hearing it more. I wrote about the idea briefly last March. (Link is here.)

Yesterday and today a group of mayors – including Charlotte's Pat McCrory and Atlanta's Shirley Franklin – plus academics, business executives and others from the Char-Lanta corridor gathered to talk about whether this giant region should start looking at itself as one connected whole, rather than disconnected municipalities and states. Not surprisingly, they agreed to keep talking.

Mega-region is a somewhat new term for the idea that U.S. metro areas are clumped in larger multi-state regions, each operating in many ways as one economic entity, and that addressing environmental, transportation and economic issues requires looking beyond municipal and state boundaries. The so-called Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion stretches from Birmingham to Raleigh (I-20 and I-85 are key connecting threads) and, they say, should be viewed as one large urban region.

Mayors at this meeting were McCrory, Franklin, Jennie Stultz of Gastonia and Robert Reichert of Macon.

Several action items emerged from the meetings (journalists were not allowed in to cover the discussion sessions):

1. The mayors agreed to short-term lobbying to press Washington for money for high-speed rail through the corridor as well as money to replace the Yadkin River bridge on I-85.

2. They'll meet again in October, probably in Greenville-Spartanburg.

3. They'll launch scenario planning to try to glimpse what the megaregion would look like with or without a large-scale regional vision.

4. They'll look to UNC Charlotte, Clemson and Georgia Tech to help develop an organizational structure to keep the group intact.

Look for more coverage from the Observer's Bruce Henderson, but here are a few quick tidbits from a noon press conference today:

- The day's best quote came from Catherine Ross of Georgia Tech's Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development and author of "Megaregions: Planning for Global Competitiveness." Ross was one of the architects of the event. "My grandma said, 'You have to put it on the ground where the chickens can get it.' " In other words, it's a complicated concept and to help people understand it you have to put it out for them so they can start to learn it.

- Mayor Robert Reichert of Macon declared with enthusiasm: "You're catching a glimpse of the future." He noted, however, that "if you think Atlanta and Charlotte are gonna have a lovefest and not compete from now on ... " well, he said, that won't happen. But cooperation and competition can co-exist.

Several times, the mayors said that in their view, mayors are better positioned than governors to work together on such urban issues. In an interview Tuesday, Georgia Tech's Harry West said, "Georgia's governor right now is like a one-armed paper hanger." In other words, busy with multiple priorities.

Interested in learning more? Here are some links:
- Georgia Tech's Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development's megaregions research page.
-Urban Land Magazine's "Think Global, Act Megaregional" (July 2006) by William Hudnut.
- "Think Locally, Act Regionally" from the Brookings Institution.


- Trent Merchant said...

Where were Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Greenville, SC and Spartanburg?

Frank said...

Raleigh was traded to Birmingham for a few future picks and two players to be named later. It's in there someplace...

Anonymous said...

It's too bad that Charlotte doesn't have a legitimate university to put up there with Georgia Tech and Clemson.

Mary Newsom said...

To answer Trent Merchant: Greenville and Spartanburg mayors was invited but couldn't make it. To keep the numbers manageable, for this event mayors north of Charlotte weren't invited. They'll be included in future sessions, obviously.

Anonymous said...

This will never fly. The Republican Party Platform won't tolerate more government.

In fact, After studying the comments posted to Mary’s blog, I have figured out the 2012 GOP Platform:

1. Bailouts and government aid are not needed to sustain businesses and create or preserve jobs. Allow businesses to declare bankruptcy, go out of business and shed American jobs. More unregulated laissez-fair capitalism is needed.

2. Shrink the role of government to get it out of our lives and thereby eliminate the taxes we pay in the form of income, payroll, and sales. (Throw away homeland security, the armed forces, the national highway system, air and rail transportation, pollution cleanup superfunding, Social Security, Medicaid, and Unemployment Compensation. Allow no more health care involvement by the government.)

3. Executives deserve extravagant bonuses for all the economy-endangering decisions they make, paid from the services or product revenue we consumers are forced to generate. Better yet are outlandish salaries paid to “sports heroes” from the advertising revenue you and I generate for being sports-obsessed TV viewers and fans, while they play schoolyard games. Brokers and bankers deserve huge multi-million dollar bonuses from monies we give them to invest so we peons can earn a little interest or maybe a little capital appreciation, while they get a big return on their “labor” from our money.

All I can fathom is that the GOP plans to beef up the family unit as the main provider of food, shelter and care for the ever-growing population of elderly, disabled and children. Sort of like returning to the lifestyle of 1870s rural America, when most of America lived on farms and had their own sustenance. Good luck with that!

Meanwhile, I suggest the rest of us tell our kids to get into either the government or the health care industry if they want a job and worry-free career.

That Guy said...

Clemson is a legitimate university? I think not.

Oh - and to the Anonymous commenter above, great Copy-Paste there commie. I bet you're a hoot at a cocktail party surrounded by other elbow-patch types.

Anonymous said...
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WashuOtaku said...
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Anonymous said...

This is a good idea and a starting point for reclamation of the 10th amendment.

Anonymous said...

We need high speed rail.

Anonymous said...

The last thing we need is yet another extraneous pseudo political body making decisions that will denigrate the populace while enriching themselves financially.

Former Atlantan said...

I could see this with Atlanta and Chattanooga which is about 1 hour (at Atlanta speeds)away and already has workers commuting between the two. Charlotte is too far away for something like this. There are much closer cities for Charlotte to partner with in North and South Carolina.

Anonymous said...

To some of the rather off thread comments above... why does everything turn into a liberal/conservative tug of war these days???

As for a megaregion, I think the topic is worth exploring given the ever increasing complexities of interconnected economies but never underestimate the power of imagined communities (and thus, rivalry).

Bruce said...

Sounds like a bunch of loser cities trying to hop on to Atlanta's wagon to me. If it were me, I'd worry more about not being one of the losers, than stealing from the winners. FYI I live in Charlotte area.

consultant said...

Hello Charlotte!

I live in Decatur, Ga. (right next door to Atlanta). We've lived here for 20 years.

Metro Atlanta doesn't know ANYTHING about planning or how to grow a community. Unless you're talking about unplanned, out of control growth.

I always remember the classic response of an Atlanta resident, who when asked by a reporter about the crazy quilt nature of our streets, replied, "if you don't know how to get to where you want to go, maybe you shouldn't be going there".

Atlanta + planning. Not so much.

Mr. Conservative Republican said...

What! When did all this change come about that requires us to think on a mega-regional scale? I’m still down here on the farm in SC, and I ain’t seen no environmental, economic and transportation issues arise.

My god-fearing Senator and Mr. Limbaugh assure me that change is bad, and therefore I should be against it – that’s all I need to know. Mark my words, all these meetings and discussions will just lead to more change. And you know what that will get us: PROGRESS!!!!

Bill Holman said...

I recommend that they consider water supply at a future meeting. The "Ralalatingham" region from Raleigh to Birmingham in the Piedmont is a region of small streams and limited ground water resources.

Anonymous said...

Mary Poppins region sounds about right.

Anonymous said...

Bigger than Mary's ego.