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.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009