Blog: John Austin

John Austin is our guest blogger this week. John is a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and vice president of the Michigan State Board of Education.

John has been examining the economic strengths and opportunities of the Great Lakes region as detailed in the Brookings Institution report: The Vital Center, A Federal- State Compact to Renew the Great Lakes Region

Post No. 4

 Taken as a whole, the Great Lakes region is an enormous economic engine. Along with the highly integrated Canadian economy just across its border, it is one of the world’s largest industrial-production centers, trade originators, and consumer marketplaces.

The population of the 12 states in total is 97 million. The major metropolitan areas clustered in the corridor from Milwaukee/Chicago to Cleveland and Pittsburgh to the east approaches 40 million, making it second only to the Eastern seaboard as a highly integrated economic 'mega-region.'

According to World Business Chicago analysis, with the inclusion of Ontario, the Great Lakes region constitutes the third largest 'country' product in the world—larger than that of the UK, Germany and China, and second only to Japan and the US whole.

As such, it is one of only a worldwide handful of large urbanized and networked regions that are increasingly the global hubs of the economic activity and growth.

The most successful regions and communities today are burgeoning “supercities." Belts of urbanized communities are home to global firms, populations, and universities that participate in and shape the world. They are vital to the exchange of ideas, people, culture, fashion, products, and services.

The Great Lakes region is in the vanguard of global connectivity.

Analysis by the Globalization and World Cities project categorizes cities based on a number of indicators including: the nature and number of firms in a region that were at the center of global services provision, international business travel activity, and infrastructures for global commerce (airports etc).

Based on this analysis, Chicago and Toronto are "Alpha' world cities and Minneapolis-St. Paul is “emerging.” Detroit/Southeast Michigan, and Cleveland are reemerging as global entrepots, sharing several of characteristics of global leaders, including well-developed air transportation infrastructure.

When you have to play globally to be a player in today’s economy, these cities make the Great Lakes a force to be reckoned with.