Monday, October 29, 2007

Texas Triangle a Top 10 Global Mega-Region

Caught this Richard Florida blog post on the rise of global mega-regions - essentially continuous urban areas like the Boston-NYC-Philly-DC corridor. In that post he links to a recent paper he collaborated on identifying the top 40 mega-regions in the world:
This paper uses a global dataset of nighttime light emissions to produce an objectively consistent set of mega-regions for the globe. We draw on high resolution population data to estimate the population of each of these regions. We then process the light data in combination with published estimates of national GDP to produce rough but useful estimates of the economic activity of each region. We also present estimates of technological and scientific innovation. We identify 40 mega-regions with economic output of more than $100 billion that produce 66 percent of world output and accounts for 85 percent of global innovation... (yet cover only a tiny fraction of the habitable surface of the earth, and are home to less than 18% of the world’s population)
Unfortunately, something in their methodology led them to split Texas into two mega-regions, the Dallas-San Antonio corridor, and the Houston-New Orleans corridor, extending all the way the Florida panhandle (see map on p.27). Of course, anybody familiar with Houston's economy knows it has far more connections to the rest of the Texas Triangle cities than it does to NOLA and points east, and I let him know in the comments. The true mega-region is the Texas Triangle Megalopolis, as identified by the Federal Reserve Bank.

He has a table of the 40 mega-regions on p.31, and if you combine our two into a single extended Texas Triangle mega-region, our economy totals up to $700 billion in GDP (2000), which makes it the 10th largest in the world, just barely behind Charlotte-Atlanta (most of 4 states, $730B) and Southern California ($710B), and 5th largest in the U.S. (Boston-NYC-DC and the Chicago-Pittsburgh greater Midwest are #2 and 3 in the world respectively). #1 is greater Tokyo, with 55 million people and $2.5 trillion of GDP.

Our combined region has 20 million people (#23), a patents rank of 11, and scientific citations rank of 8. From an aviation perspective, Houston is connected nonstop to 15 of the top 20 (outside of ourselves), with gaps to 2 regions of Japan beyond Tokyo, Italy, Seoul-South Korea, and the French-Spanish Riviera.

Somewhat surprisingly, some of the most talked-about Asian mega-cities fell in the bottom half economically, but you can expect them to move up eventually given their rapid economic growth and gigantic populations: greater Hong Kong (45m), Shanghai (66m), Beijing (43m), and Delhi-Lahore with a whopping 121 million people.

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At 9:23 PM, October 29, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

Interesting. Here are some other maps with some slightly different megalopolises:

Houston is part of the "Texas Triangle" in this one - which this guy calls Fort San Haustin. My personal favorite name is Portattleouver.

I like the Texas and the Chicago boundaries better on this one, personally. Chicago has far more in common with / links to St. Louis than it does with Pittsburgh.

At 10:10 PM, October 29, 2007, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Cool maps. Goofy names. Thanks for the link.

As far as the Florida paper, I agree that some of the boundaries seem very arbitrary. Minneapolis and Pittsburgh belong together, but not SF and LA?

At 8:16 AM, October 30, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was surprised by how large "Char-Lanta" turned out to be under this methodology until I saw the map on pg. 27 and realized that all of NC and SC were subsumed in this "region." That includes the NC "research triangle" boosting the patent rank and all of NC's 9 mm residents boosting the population total.

Bos-Ny-Wash extended a little too far as well. I think the citizens of Norfolk, VA would be shocked to learn that they lived in part of greater "New York."

I think the authors demonstrate that they were at least subconsciously aware of the true "Texas Triangle" by attempting to sketch a triangle at all. When I see San Antonio, Austin and DFW connected by I-35, I see a line. You need to draw a pretty obtuse angle to come up with a "triangle" for that region.

At 10:31 AM, October 30, 2007, Blogger Unknown said...

Probably a much better and more thorough examination of this phenomenon in the US is happening at (I've been on the steering committee and participated in this for a few years). It's very interesting stuff, and really just getting started, having had an official organization for just three years. But it's got some top demographers and planners working on it.

At 11:31 AM, October 30, 2007, Blogger Unknown said...

The maps that michael points to, as well as those at, also present a visual aid to seeing our own region as a polycentric one. If you imagine the general picture you see in, for instance, the Texas Triangle, brought down to regional scale, you can understand the idea that Houston contains many cities, towns, villages, and neighborhoods, and definitely is not just a blob with a center that keeps expanding. If you go further and look at how the European Union is planning for "a future in which regions with multiple centers organize into collaborative economic clusters that form sustainable networks of access, mobility, and green infrastructure," you can begin to imagine how different Houston is and can be than the image we generally have of it.
Even so, people have difficulty with this paradigm. After the first America 2050 maps came out, Business 2.0 had a cover story about "The next real estate boom," which was basically about filling in all the land area in the megaregions. Horrible vision, but shows how difficult this visual thing is.

At 11:44 AM, October 30, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the Houston-New Orleans corridor. That's the petrochemical belt, and though Houston is admittedly the dominant pole in that belt, we do have a very strong connection to the points in between, such as Beaumont and Lake Charles and Lafayette and the famed cancer alley between Baton Rouge and NOLA. There are a lot of strong connections tieing Houston in that direction.

I don't see a similar connection between Houston and San Antonio, nor the points in between.

At 1:39 PM, October 30, 2007, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I remember seeing the America2050 stuff before, and they also had some confusion about putting Houston in the Texas Triangle vs. Gulf Coast. Last I saw, they had us in both, which was unique among cities (being considered part of two different regions).

I agree we have ties to Louisiana in energy, I just think they're weaker than the ties within the Texas Triangle. I can't tell you how many businesses I've come across that have multiple locations within the Triangle. It's the logical first expansion. Not to mention families with relatives spread throughout the Triangle for school or jobs.

At 2:22 PM, October 30, 2007, Blogger Unknown said...

I think a lot of these configurations came from the earlier work that resulted in the national high-speed rail network map. If you look at it, you'll see that Houston isn't connected to any Texas cities, and is at the end of a line that comes through New Orleans.
At the last 2050 conference I made the case that the Gulf Coast megaregion was pretty iffy, really only connected by energy, ports, and fisheries. Everybody recognizes that this is the weakest of the concepts.

At 3:09 PM, October 30, 2007, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Just got an email noting that 10.6% of the jobs added in the nation from Sept '06 to Sept '07 were in the Texas Triangle. Considering we're around 5% of the nation's population, we're definitely punching above our weight class.

At 7:05 AM, October 31, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous 11:44 beat me to the punch...In addition to refineries, there is a lot of fabrication in South Louisiana, and most people I know in the business have worked in Lafayette. I'm a little biased by my oil industry experience, but I think our connections to Austin (except for UT) are more tenuous than those to Lafayette/NOLA.

I agree there is a lot of connection between Dallas and Houston, mostly banking. Barnett Shale notwithstanding, they don't have as much oil and we don't have as much banking/telecom.

At 12:13 PM, November 01, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It feels to me like this concept is right but simplistic: rather than grouping cities we could map economic links: Boston is linked to New York, New York is linked to Philadelphia and DC, DC is linked to Norfolk. But that doesn't mean that Boston is linked to Norfolk. So Houston is linked to New Orleans and to Dallas, but the Dallas-New Orleans link is not as strong. New Orleans is linked to Mobile and Houston, but Houston isn't strongly linked to Mobile.

The global mega-regions paper has the same problem: it makes no sense to say Frankfurt and Cologne are in different regions.

At 12:12 PM, November 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like finding meaningful economic entities on the basis of spatial proximity is becoming a bit outdated, with all of our new technology. A better way of mapping the world's economic landscape might be by considering each of the major industries as an entity (oil, tech, grain, wood products, etc.), rather than making land regions your entities.

At 9:11 AM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Unknown said...

Coming in a little late here, but a couple of notes:
The folks who are leading this discussion, mostly Robert Lang and Bob Yaro, are not arguing for these megaregions on the basis of spatial proximity, but on the basis of a lot of other dependencies and ties, demographic, economic, cultural, historic, and so on. Florida's take on this is basically as an observer who has seen a phenomenon emerging all over the world, but isn't as well informed as the America 2050 folks.
The Texas Triangle is seen as more of an opportunity than an existing reality. This is not to say that there is not reality now, only to say that we are missing a huge bet if we don't tend to growing the strength of the megaregion.
Finally, most of the people working on how to develop the regions are focused on only two big issues: transportation infrastructure and green infrastructure. So it's an opportunity to build real health over a large area, but it has to be done in a very smart way.

At 6:43 PM, November 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tory: according to front page of HChron Biz Section, Sept 27,2007, Houston metro GDP is $254B (7th in nation and behind the Metroplex) yet other studies have it as high as $354B, (4th in nation) behind NY, LA and Chi.

The last number looks more accurate because metroplex hasnt the Plant Propty and Equip we have.

Question, has anyone ever put a value on the amount of goods that flow through the Port of Houston?

We know that there were 202M tons in 2006 that flowed through, but what's that wholesale value? $202B?, $404B or much more? and that's in addition to our GDP. And that number should be considered when including the importance of the Houston economy, which I judge is the 3rd most important in the US.

Any thoughts?
Mike M.

At 7:15 PM, November 28, 2007, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

This says $103B in port foreign trade in 2006:

That should jump in '07 and '08 as oil keeps marching upward.

I also dug into the metro GDP numbers in this post:

We come in #5, behind the big 3 + DC. If SF was added to Silicon Valley/SJ, they would be #5.


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