The next economy knows no boundaries. You will read this again and again in the excerpts below from 7 of my favorite papers on the power of regions. Of the folks quoted, Jane Jacobs is the earliest thinker about regional economies – early 80’s. The links to the full papers are provided. There will be a cost for downloading “Mastering the Metro” paper; others are free.
Regional economies will be vital for growing food, creating manufacturing supply chains, producing and distributing renewable energy, sharing tourists as well as many other economic elements.
From "The New, New Urbanism,"
Perhaps Peter Calthorpe and William Fulton’s Regionalism is the next step for New Urbanism. To wit, if New Urbanism is the mixed-use philosophy for planning singular district economies, regionalism is the planning philosophy for tying together many districts within a metropolitan region. Rather than master plan a few large districts typically in central cities that may meet a perceived market demand, entire metropolitan regions contain many more small cities, townships and commercial districts needing more small-scale infill development projects to complement the glaring lack of mixed-uses that produces an intractable amount of cross-county commuting…It can be said there are 5 scales of economy, small to large: local, regional, state, national and global. A bell curve depicts “regional” economies at the top of the curve as most efficient. A backyard local economy is too small to serve a large population and the further we travel and transport goods to construct state, national and global economies, the more waste incurs.
From "The Regional City" by Peter Calthorpe and William Fulton, as featured in "The Interactive Megalopolis and The Regional City: Embracing Regionalism"
…Whether national or local, these "economies" might be important to the politicians who preside over them, but it has become increasingly clear that they don't really exist. Economic activity does not come to a halt when it reaches a jurisdictional line, whether the jurisdiction is a local, state, or national government. Political boundaries are artificial—and they don't reflect the way the global economy operates.
The global economy operates best at the regional scale for two reasons. First, much to everyone's surprise, despite our advances in telecommunications technology, proximity still matters a great deal. And, second, because of the decentralized nature of the economy, networking among a large number of highly specialized people and businesses matters more than ever.
From "The Economy of Regions" By Jane Jacobs
…Five different kinds of forces from distant cities [in the region] jerked [the small French town of] Bardou about, although never all at the same time. Those forces were the power of city markets, the power of city jobs, the power of city technology, the power of city work transplanted out of cities, and the power of city capital. These are the five forces that shape and reshape all regional economies, except those for which cities have no use, as happened in Bardou when it was a place of subsistence life only. These five great forces arise within cities, primarily as a consequence of city import- replacing, a process that shifts and enlarges city markets, rapidly increases city jobs, spurs development and use of rural labor-saving technology, multiplies and diversifies city enterprises, and generates capital—all simultaneously. Because these five forces are consequences of one and the same process, are in fact different facets of the process, within a city they are inextricably intertwined.
Such city regions are different from all other regions, having the richest, densest, and most intricate economies to be found, except for those of cities themselves. City regions are not defined by natural boundaries, because they are wholly the artifacts of the cities at their nuclei. The boundaries move outward or halt, only as city economic energy dictates.
From "Mysteries of the Region: Knowledge Dyamics In Silicon Valley," by John Seely Brown
...Networks of practice are made up of people that engage in the same or very similar practice, but unlike a community of practice, these people don’t necessarily work together…Consequently, its members share a great deal of insight and implicit understanding. And in these conditions, new ideas can circulate…on the back of similar practice (people doing similar things but independently) and indirect communications (professional newsletters, listservs, journals, or conferences, for example).
...In all, it seems more useful to switch, as others have, to an ecological metaphor for the region. Seeing the region as an ecology that plays home to multiple species but whose growth is ultimately a collective process does much more justice both to Marshall’s insight and the richness of regions like Silicon Valley. For the ecological view provides a systemic perspective. What is good for the ecosystem as a whole is not necessarily good for individual species or firms. Indeed, some of these may have to die for the region as a whole to survive. (Deaths in Silicon Valley get much less attention than births... Conversely, protecting individual species, as many working to build a region try to do, may be counterproductive.
...From the ecological perspective, the means of communication are only a small part of the overall complexity of the knowledge dynamics of the region. Ecological robustness is built—mysteries are put in the air—through shared practice, face-to-face contacts, reciprocity, and swift trust, all generated within networks of practice and communities of practice. New communications technologies can certainly reinforce these. It is more doubtful that they can readily replace them.
From "Mastering the Metro," by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley
…When you look at global economic performance you’ll see that the top 30 metro performers today are almost exclusively located in Asia and Latin America. The 30 worst metro performers are nearly all located in Europe, the United States and earthquake-ravaged Japan. In 2009, Brazil, India and China (the BICs) accounted for about a fifth of global GDP, surpassing the U.S. for the first time. By 2015, the BIC share will grow to more than 25 percent. These nations are growing because they are urbanizing and industrializing. The locus of economic power in the world is shifting. How will communities in the United States compete — not just for rankings, but for the jobs, people and resources that make them good places to live?
…The Great Recession was a wake-up call to American metro leadership. At its onset, many U.S. cities and metropolitan areas found themselves engaged in low-road economic growth, pursuing mall developers and condo builders, as if housing and retail were drivers of the economy rather than derivative of the sectors that truly generate wealth: Manufacturing, innovation and the tradeable export industries.
This consumption economy was mostly zero-sum. A dollar spent (and taxed) or a house built (and taxed), or a business located (and taxed) in one jurisdiction was lost to any other. So, in metropolis after metropolis, jurisdictions competed against each other for sources of tax revenue — usually commercial development and big employers — wasting scarce dollars on enticing businesses to move literally a few miles across artificial political borders. The result: Metros prioritized short-term speculation over long-term growth and sustainable development. They did this until the bubble popped.
The post-recession period presents a historic opportunity to change how we measure growth and prosperity in metropolitan America and, by doing so, how we alter the trajectory of that growth. By measuring and gaining a more thorough understanding of their most important economic assets — through an analysis of export orientation, migration patterns, industry clusters, innovative capacity and human capital — metros will be better able to build on their strengths and compete in the global economy.
From "How to Make a Region Innovative," by Ernest J. Wilson III
...[Individual innovations], no matter how appealing, don’t make a difference unless they can add up to sustainable serial innovation. To generate one groundbreaking technological development after another, innovation must be embedded within long-lived social institutions and networks. Four different sectors must be linked together: government, business, civil society, and academia. This is what I call “the quad.” In such an environment, creativity needn’t wait for the unpredictable “aha” moment. It is continually nurtured. The decisions made at every level — investment funds, corporate engineering teams, regional planning boards, philanthropic councils, academic faculty reviews, and many more — are naturally aligned.
...To bring these four sectors together, a quad cluster needs to nourish a high level of mutual trust.
From "Local Knowledge: Innovation in the Networked Age," by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid
...So, unlike digital information, the sort of knowledge that has fuelled growth and wealth in the modern economy neither spreads nor scales very easily at its most productive stage. Consequently, innovative knowledge and knowledge-based growth, like industrial growth, still cluster.
...innovation still has geography. And that geography still has consequences.