Catherine Ross
Catherine Ross is the Director of Georgia Tech's Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development (CQGRD) and occupies the Harry West Chair for Quality Growth and Regional Development. She has held a variety of leadership positions at Georgia Tech, including vice provost for academic affairs, associate vice president for academic affairs, co-director of the Transportation Research and Education Center , and director of the College of Architecture 's Ph.D. program. Previously, Ross was the first executive director of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA).
“Just as the neighborhood is a critical building block for a city, cities are now the building blocks for megaregions which in turn are the new economic unit in world markets.”

November 20, 2008
Building Blocks for a Global Economy
Catherine Ross, Director, Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development, Georgia Tech

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A city is a living breathing entity. It is not only a center of economic activity, it also provides for the socialization and development of its citizens and is where they forge their shared identity and through which they communicate this vision to others.

Looking inward, a city engages in a subtle balancing act to meet the many needs and expectations placed on it. It inspires its citizens to assume public responsibility for each other and to take advantage of the opportunities it provides. But looking outward, the role of cities is evolving and responding to the demands of the global economy. We now see the relationship between cities becoming extremely important as they collectively form the economic core of expanded regions that are significant economic units in the global economy.

These emerging and expanded areas are called “megaregions.” 

Between now and the year 2050, more than half of the nation’s population growth, and perhaps as much as two-thirds of its economic growth, will occur in several megaregions. These megaregions are extended networks of metropolitan centers and the surrounding areas of influence. They often cross county and state lines and are defined by the intensity of social, economic, and environmental linkages that create relationships and a shared sense of identity.

The southeastern United States has been identified as an emerging megaregion and is defined by several key characteristics, including its natural features and systems, transportation networks, and economic relationships.

The cities of Birmingham, Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh form the economic core of the southeastern six-state “Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion,” also known as PAM. The core is characterized by the greatest density of people and highest intensity of travel and economic interaction. PAM also contains many other major cities that are important government, academic, and business centers.

There are also several gateway cities, including the sea port cities of Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, and Mobile; and major rail and airport cities, like Nashville and Atlanta. These gateway cities provide important domestic and international links that facilitate the flow of goods, people, information, and culture. All of the cities are connected not only to each other, but also to the numerous smaller cities and large swaths of rural and undeveloped land that surround them.

Just as the neighborhood is a critical building block for a city, cities are now the building blocks for megaregions which in turn are the new economic unit in world markets. They are centers of entrepreneurship and create the environment where innovation and creativity flourish.

The uniqueness of individual cities within these megaregions will not be lost and will always reflect the values and preferences of their residents. As critical components in an increasingly complex and global economy, cities must increasingly embrace sustainability, quality growth and a vision for the future that emanates from the community and the place.

Megaregions allow us to engage in the world in entirely new ways and healthy and vibrant cities are the keystone to our future success.

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