The Metropolitan Moment

Editor’s Note: In a piece for the launch of Atlantic Cities, Bruce Katz urges metropolitan leaders to leverage their regions’ potential to help create jobs and boost innovation.

The early decades of this century are shaping up to be historically disruptive and defining. The global economic order is in a state of radical transition. New environmental imperatives and safety concerns are driving the extreme makeover of national energy systems. Rapid technological innovation is both expanding individual choice and enabling collective action. Social inequities and political volatility are at a fever pitch.

One unifying, simplifying thread emerges in this tumultuous period: the power of cities and metropolitan areas.

The world has arrived at a Metropolitan Moment. For the first time in history, cities and their metropolitan environs house more than half of the world’s population. In the United States, metropolitan areas contain 84 percent of the population and generate 91 percent of GDP.

Metropolitan communities, here and abroad, represent the true economic geography. They agglomerate the world’s talented workers, innovative firms and risk-taking entrepreneurs, and concentrate unique assets and industry clusters that define regional competitiveness and drive national economies. They are also the undisputed vehicles for environmental sustainability and social inclusion.

Such concentrated power demands new levels of responsibility. With many national and supra-national levels of government dangerously adrift, the onus is on cities and metros to act like the engines of national prosperity they are and lead the economy-shaping, talent-preparing, place-making, and environmental-stewarding that this disruptive period demands.

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