Governing Magazine published an opinion piece by Michael Pagano, GCI fellow and dean of the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, on the need to concentrate infrastructure spending in metropolitan areas.
For nearly seven years now, polls have consistently ranked jobs and the economy as the top concerns of the American people, far outpacing non-economic issues and our collective fears of jihad and terrorism. President Obama acknowledged as much in his latest State of the Union address by once again calling for increased spending on infrastructure and training.
Unmentioned, paradoxically, was that if all levels of government actually increased spending in those areas, that investment would primarily be realized in urban settings. It’s not hard to see why: The nation’s economic engines are for the most part located in its metropolitan regions, the geographical space that houses 81 percent of its population while consuming only 3 percent of its land mass, according to the Census Bureau.
This is not to argue that government policy should only include investment in metropolitan regions at the expense of rural areas. Agriculture, mining and other industrial sectors tend to be located outside metropolitan regions and certainly merit public-policy considerations. Rather, the president had an opening to reflect on the role of metropolitan America as the harbinger of future opportunities, economic progress, and growth and development, but passed it by as if geography did not matter. It does.