Thinking Big for Florida
Florida's public policy-makers must recognize that mega-regions are the engines of the new global economy. They must support Florida's mega-region -- the 15th largest in the world.
The Talent Quest
In today’s world economy, the real competition is not between the U.S. and China, India or Brazil. Instead, specific regions in the U.S. and Canada are battling specific regions based around Shanghai, China; Bangalore, India; and São Paulo, Brazil. Mega-regions are now the engines of growth, and we must do all we can to maintain and improve their competitiveness with the rest of the world.
The global system of cities and regions is going through the same kind of consolidation that once reshaped industries like steel, car manufacturing and electronics. Many second- and third-tier city-regions in the U.S. are likely to be hit hard, as both global and domestic mega-regions up the ante, accelerating rates of innovation and drawing in the most skilled workers. This last point is crucial, as what matters most today is not where most people settle but where the greatest number of the most skilled people settle. This is a global competition for talent.
And increasingly the most skilled people get to choose where they live, drawn by the aesthetic qualities of a place, the standards of basic services and the openness, diversity and tolerance of a community.
With its beaches, temperate climate and highly diverse population (third-most diverse in the U.S., behind only California and Nevada), Florida has many advantages in this regard. But what is needed — in Florida and across the U.S. — is public policy that recognizes the rise of the mega-regions and works to support them.
The Florida mega needs to improve the connectivity between its hubs and satellites. (This spring my wife and I were blown around like a kite on a puddle-jumper flight from Tampa to Miami. In Europe or Japan that would have been a pleasant ride on a fast train.) Florida must also try to increase urban density — without going overboard — as a population’s concentration is a key driver of innovation and productivity. And each of the mega’s cities and communities must identify and hone unique strengths and assets, for two reasons. In the wake of globalization, economic activity is specializing and clustering — think Nashville for music; High Point, N.C., for furniture; or Silicon Valley for high-tech. Also, people with the freedom to choose their location seek the authentic and run away from the generic.
Most of all, long-term success will rely on developing new structures and methods to help all the pieces of the Florida mega-region work together. Why not make it the first mega-region in the U.S., indeed the world, to organize itself for the mega-competition? Every place, every resident stands to gain. And the mega, all its cities and regions, will be better-positioned to thrive in the new global economy.
Richard Florida is the director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and professor of business and creativity at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. His latest book is “Who’s Your City?”