Is Dallas a “global region?”
It would sure seem that way. The region is the sixth largest metropolitan economy in the United States, and according to Brookings’ Global MetroMonitor, the 12th largest in the world. By virtue of size alone, Dallas appears to be a powerful force in the global marketplace.
Move beyond size, however, and the global status of the Dallas area seems to be in the eye of the beholder. Different observers have different definitions of what it means to be “global.” Various studies attempt to index the global-ness of major metropolitan areas on measures that combine the presence of major global corporations, human capital, cultural institutions, environment, quality of life, and economic growth.
Not surprisingly, the Dallas metropolis comes out in different places on different indexes: 25th (Economist Intelligence Unit), 28th (Global Urban Competitiveness Report), 36th (Brookings’ Global MetroMonitor), as an “Alpha-minus” city (Globalization and World Cities Research Network), or not at all (A.T. Kearney Global Cities Index).
These all-in-one indexes, however, tend to obscure why it is important for regions like Dallas to connect globally. More and more of the world’s economic growth is occurring abroad, especially outside developed markets like Europe and Japan. As the nation slowly recovers from a run-up in debt during the last decade, it has become clear that the United States can no longer rely solely on its vast internal consumption market for economic growth. The vast majority of growth in the global middle class in the next 20 years will occur in developing Asia and Latin America. To fuel their own economic growth, then, regions like Dallas must look increasingly to other parts of the globe—particularly rapidly growing urban areas—as sources of consumers, investment, and talented workers.
It’s along those lines that our own work at Brookings, as part of the joint Global Cities Initiative with JP Morgan Chase, aims to reveal the global nature and potential of U.S. metropolitan areas like Dallas. On June 7, the Dallas Regional Chamber will convene a discussion of the region’s global position that will draw on some of our recent research for the Initiative. Some highlights:
- Dallas is a major exporter of goods and services to international markets. In 2010, its exports were valued at $41 billion, the 5th highest total in the United States, supporting 280,000 jobs. Transportation equipment, computers and electronics, and travel and tourism rank among the Dallas region’s chief exports.
- The region’s export performance reflects its strength in manufacturing. About 250,000 residents of the region worked in manufacturing in 2010, the fourth highest total nationwide. About one-third of the Dallas region’s manufacturing jobs have very high technology content, roughly double the national average, a sign that the region is today, and can remain for years to come, a global competitive hub for advanced manufacturing.
- Dallas also benefits from inflows of high-value immigrant skills. In 2010-2011, the region’s employers requested more than 10,000 highly educated immigrant workers through the H1-B visa program, eighth highest in the country. Those individuals are part of one of the nation’s leading hubs for immigrants generally, in which 25 nations each account for at least 5,000 foreign-born residents.
Efforts to enhance international flows of goods and services, capital, and labor in ways that enhance regional competitiveness must be an economic priority for all regions. For now, Dallas is well-positioned in each of these areas. But local and regional leaders must continuously capitalize on their global profile by upgrading infrastructure to speed the flow of goods and people; investing in research and development and workforce training to spur innovation in advanced manufacturing; and embracing foreign workers and students as key conduits to markets and ideas abroad.
Being “global” is not an end in itself. Rather, global connections are valuable when they help regions achieve important outcomes for their residents. By focusing on the measures that matter for metro prosperity, Dallas has the potential to lead a still-insular America into the new economic frontiers of a truly global century.