Still at the Forefront
Even though it's more than 50 years old, Research Triangle Park (RTP) in North Carolina is still considered to be a model of collaborative regional economic development and continues to expand its influence throughout the region, using its "triple helix" business development model that fosters collaboration between industry, government, and universities.
One of the outgrowths of triple helix is the Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP), a public-private partnership that brings innovative business opportunities to the larger, 13-county area. RTRP builds on the core strengths and reputation of Research Triangle Park, especially its reputation for innovation in the fields of medicine, biotech, clean tech, defense, informatics, nanotechnology, ICT, and pharmaceuticals.
This super-region continues to grow - in 2010 there were 108 company announcements, representing 6,607 new jobs and more than $1.5 billion in investment. As of mid-August 2011, there had been 71 announcements, representing 3,612 new jobs and $683 million in total capital investment.
"We are especially pleased with the growth of our clean technology sector," says Charles Hayes, president and CEO of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership. "Companies here are doing innovative research into `smart grid,' an advanced power network that moves electricity reliably and efficiently around the world in a manner similar to the way the Internet conducts data. Wake County, in fact, is now the nation's number-two destination for smart-grid-related company headquarters, ranking just behind San Francisco."
The Seattle/Puget Sound super-region has long been known for innovative high-tech industries, including advanced manufacturing, information technology, and green technologies. Part of the "Cascadia" mega-region, Seattle/Puget Sound is ready to expand its influence into other key clusters such as logistics, life sciences, food science, and aerospace thanks to the relatively new Prosperity Partnership - a coalition of hundreds of businesses, nonprofits, and governments dedicated to expanding the super-region's future economic base.
As a further demonstration of its commitment to regional collaboration, in 2008 the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) and the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle (Trade Alliance) created the first-ever International Regions Benchmarking Consortium. The goal of this partnership is to identify new economic development ideas and best practices from other forward-thinking cities around the world - international metropolitan partners include Barcelona, Dublin, Helsinki, Munich, and Vancouver. Both Microsoft and Boeing provided significant funding to launch the organization.
Although regional collaboration at the super- or mega-region scale will always be challenging and expensive to undertake, the economic stakes have never been higher.
"The next economy will be largely metropolitan in form and in function," warns Katz of the Brookings Institution. "Our major metro areas in this country generate nearly three-quarters of our gross domestic product. We may be nostalgic about small-town America, but it is metropolitan America that drives our national economy and determines our national prosperity."