The Great Lakes Megaregion and Sterling Heights


I’m fascinated by maps and statistics, and today I somehow found myself on a tangent concerning the relative size of population centers and local economies.  Sterling Heights, and the Detroit metropolitan area in general, turn out to be in an important place for more reasons than just the simple fact that you and I live here or that the automotive industry centers here.

What is the Great Lakes Megaregion?

I have long known about the northeastern megaregion, that area along the eastern seaboard with tens of millions of people, where interstate travel is intra-urban travel: you never really “leave town”.  It’s one, big, giant city that has been subdivided along traditional political boundaries that belie the way they are inextricably linked to one another.

What I wasn’t aware of (and it’s not a new idea) is that there are 10 other similar megaregions (a.k.a. megalopolises) elsewhere in the country.

Wikipedia defines a megaregion as follows:

A megaregion is a large network of metropolitan regions that share several or all of the following:

  • Environmental systems and topography
  • Infrastructure systems
  • Economic linkages
  • Settlement and land use patterns
  • Culture and history

It turns out that there is a vast, emerging megaregion that we all call home: the Great Lakes Megaregion.  Its population, already at 54 million, will be 63 million by 2025.  Detroit is at its geographical center, and it includes Chicago, Milwaukee, Toledo, Cleveland, Toronto, Indianapolis, Columbus, etc.  It is the largest such region in the country, bigger in terms of population and land area than the northeast, and second only in terms of GDP.

I think that my surprise at discovering the true statistical nature of the place we call home stems from the fact that we’ve spent so much time being told by the mainstream media that we’re unimportant “flyover country.”  Quite to the contrary, where we are and the conditions we live in are extremely important to the nation at large.  We represent the largest statistical region in terms of land mass and population, and the second largest economy.

Moreover, we in Sterling Heights are, statistically, culturally, and geographically one and the same as the rest of the region.

This brings into sharp focus the significant disconnect between Detroit and the rest of the nation, and the scope of the problems we face here and their relative importance.  Right at the core of the single biggest, most populous region in the United States, we have a city that exists in third world conditions. This is unacceptable, and we should not allow it to continue to be ignored.

Why? Because we’re in this together.

Why is this important to us in Sterling Heights?

It is my observation that much in Sterling Heights politics is driven by the desire to not allow the urban decay of the City of Detroit to reach our borders.

I have often heard it said in council meetings, “we don’t want to become another Detroit.”

Yet, we are the City of Detroit.  Statistically, geographically, culturally, and infra-structurally one and the same.  I know that when I’m visiting other parts of the country and people ask me where I’m from, I say “Detroit”, because nobody knows anything about Sterling Heights.   The distinction only matters to people who live around here, and really, it should hardly matter at all.  Once again, the traditional political boundaries belie the way that we are inextricably linked to one another.

The grouping of all of these towns together across the several states in the region is by no accident.  As a region, we have similar interests, a similar culture, and similar connectivity to every other point in the region.

In my estimation, as residents of Sterling Heights, we have the right to demand from our governor and president that something be done to correct what is going on in Detroit, so it cannot happen in Sterling Heights, because for all practical intents and purposes, what happens there is already happening to us.

And as the third largest city in the state that anchors the region, it is incumbent upon us as residents to pay careful attention to what is going on in local politics.  It has a direct impact on our success as a city, certainly.  But it also has an indirect impact on our overall success as a region as well.

If you are content to remain interested only that Sterling Heights does not become “like Detroit”, well I have news for you: the real issue should be in helping Detroit to become “like Sterling Heights.”

It speaks volumes that city council meetings are sometimes only sparsely attended and that our city council allows one of their number to routinely insult the integrity of our city’s businesses.  Remember, folks, this “global economy” idea is even more acute in your own neck of the woods.  The statistics show that a business that wants to locate in the Great Lakes region can just as easily do so in Ohio as here, and have access to all of the same benefits.

I encourage you to read about the megaregion phenomenon and to consider what it means to our city.  I think the concept opens doors for our continued success…I also think that if ignored, it will be to our extreme detriment.

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Posted on October 4, 2012, in Issues and views. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. To be fair, on a certain level there isn’t much council can do to prevent the member in question from speaking his mind.

    The voters elected him, so (sadly) we are now forced to listen to every crazy, twisted, conspiratorial and coded racist thing that he and his supporters want to say every other Tuesday.

    And yes, with the exception of the last meeting, there’s never a shortage of empty seats at the meeting. It’s kind of like a Tuesday night card game, with the same faces there every time, with the occasional ‘newbie’ who shows up for a single issue.

    We are fortunate that nothing much happens in the city, because we’re kind of running on autopilot.

  2. Malcolm,If you are content with the way our city is run,good for you.However geoff is just flat wrong if he thinks Detroit will ever be like Sterling Heights.Our once safe and beautiful city is quickly deteriorating.Every crime stat is up.Neighborhoods in disrepair.OBA meetings running 2 plus hours.Our shops are filling up with dollar stores,tatoo shops, paun shops,poker and gaming business,hookah lounges( one just got shot down,thank god)Filthy fruit markets,rats,and low employee moral due to cutbacks and layoffs.Detroit has been like this for years. And now the decay has moved into our city.You can sit home and do nothing or go to council meetings and speak out about the condition of our city.All the money spent on promoting SHINE…..It it gone.Just last night at the planning meeting a chaldean business man stated that there are 40,000 chaldeans in the city.Many,many of homes and businesses are on the abatement list for poor upkeep.Mr Garieys comments have no facts to back them up.Mr.Smith is a very minor issue,and no one except Geoff even bring it up anymore.We have bigger issues in our city than one opposing tax abatements.

    • I published your comment, Joe, because I wanted to illustrate something to the people who read the blog. First, there’s not enough time in the day for me to clean up your spelling, grammatical errors, and poor capitalization. The problems you have here are typical to your writing, which is a shame because it detracts from some of the very good things you have to say. You really should spend more time on writing that will appear in public.

      Second, your comment to Malcolm doesn’t make any sense. He’s not saying he is content with the way the city is run. Nor am I saying that Detroit will ever be like Sterling Heights. (Wouldn’t it be good if Detroit was more like our city? I think so.)

      Third, I don’t understand your comment about the number of Chaldeans there are in the city. Are you making some sort of negative comment about people of that ethnicity? Remember, if there are 40,000 of them in a city of 129,000, they represent a very substantial percentage of the electorate. Maybe the city ought to be catering to their needs, don’t you think?

      In re: “Mr.Smith (SIC) is a very minor issue and no one except Geoff even bring it up anymore (SIC).” I doubt Mr. Smith would find himself to be a minor issue. I further doubt his fellow members of Council feel his antics are a minor issue. And your behavior — posting in his defense on blogs — belies the fact that even you yourself don’t think his tenure is a minor issue. Let’s face it: you two men are good friends, and that goes over and above any feelings you have about his politics. I get it. That’s fine. No need to defend Paul, he’s a big boy.

      Finally, as far as “Mr Garieys (SIC) comments have no facts to back them up” is concerned: congratulations! You are finally starting to get the hang of what a blog is all about! I express my opinions, which are mine and mine alone. If you agree, fantastic! If you disagree, even better, because a reasoned debate about the issues is even more healthy than simple agreement! The blog is here to inform people about the issues and allow me to express my opinions, and at the same time elicit opinions from other points of view. Nothing more, nothing less. If you don’t like what you read, don’t read it. Or start your own blog. Get someone to proofread it for you, though.

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