Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Great Recession Geography: 2009 Q4

Hot on the heels of the latest "MetroMonitor" from Brookings, I intended to track some of the media reactions to the data. The relatively good news continues for Pittsburgh. As for real estate boomtowns such as Las Vegas and Phoenix, the future looks bleak. At The Avenue, a Brookings analyst reaches an interesting geographic conclusion:

What’s remarkable is that the interregional differences in the recession’s impact affected metro areas’ long-term growth patterns. The recession contributed to a big growth gap between the hardest-hit auto-dependent Great Lakes metros and the rest of the Northeast and Midwest. Likewise, it drove a big wedge between the growth rates of the housing-bust Sub Belt metros and other Sun Belt metros. If those gaps persist, then the way we think about regional growth will change. We won’t be talking about Sun Belt and Snow Belt anymore. Instead, we’ll be talking about the two Sun Belts and the two Snow Belts.

The new perspective isn't set in stone, but I think the outcome is likely. The Great Recession is bringing to the surface economic patterns many years in the making. The broad and rust colored brush used to paint the entire Snow Belt has been inaccurate for quite a while. I'd say the same about the Sun Belt.

Perhaps the first step to transforming the mega-regional narrative is to disaggregate the Rust Belt. I contend that there are at least three sub-regions. It might make more sense to brand cities with this in mind. Instead of claiming your area is no longer part of the Rust Belt, define yourself as part of the "other" Rust Belt. Geographic stereotypes work on larger scales than city.

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