Friday, February 5, 2010

Mega Regions of Mexico for the Creative Class

Some readers might be familiar with the urban theorist, Richard Florida whom I've made reference to as of late. In urban planning circles, Richard Florida has been in vogue over recent years due to his often touted "gay index" which argues that there is a clear correlation between the cities with the highest number of gay people and the cities with the greatest innovation in the new economy (which has recently become the old economy). He has indicated that these cities attract what is called the "Creative Class". The creative class being young, mobile, and educated people searching for areas with high quality of life, opportunity and excitement. Mr Florida has travelled the world giving lectures on his ideas and theories, many of these ideas breaking beyond the world of urban planning and into the mainstream media.

While the latest global economic crisis has changed the playing field a bit by putting a dent into the types of opportunities available to these creative class people, Mr. Florida argues this dynamic will not disappear and people will still be attracted to certain urban regions that afford a higher quality of life that other less developed regions cannot. So while the creative class and a growing economy lie dormant it will most assuredly rise again sometime in the near future.

In Mr. Florida's latest writings he makes reference to the urban areas which will be the incubators of the next evolution of the world economy. He references these areas as "Mega Regions".
At his website "" he lists graphically the mega regions of the world and argues that the people of the creative class should relocate to these mega regions if they want to be at the center of the action in cities that move nations forward and provide the greatest opportunities.
I agree with his assessment. If you want to get hit with opportunity it's best to move into the target zone. Where I disagree is in what Richard Florida left out of the map.In the map above you will notice only one mega region listed in Mexico (Mexico City, Puebla, and Toluca) which qualifies as a place for the creative class to locate. While I applaud him for including Mexico on this map; Many urban theorists from the United States wouldn't; It's with all due respect that I would guess that Mr. Florida doesn't know that much about Mexico and that's why the other mega regions of the country missed the cut. In my opinion the following mega regions should have been included.

1. Monterrey - Saltillo - Reynosa - McAllen, Texas
This region is the third most populous region in the country but it holds the bulk of industrial monies. Monterrey has a young and educated populace which strives to move ahead. It is also a design center and a major tourist attraction. Monterrey has a subway system, well developed rail and freeways, and the wealthiest communities in Latin America. It is also the place where the bulk of American manufacturing companies have moved their Mexican corporate headquarters and manufacturing centers. Monterrey is where the majority of regional economic investment is centered but what benefits Monterrey benefits nearby Saltillo......and to an extent Reynosa and McAllen, Texas which could also be lumped into this mega region.

2. Guadalajara - Puerto Vallarta
It almost goes without saying that Guadalajara is an industrial powerhouse as well as a center for commerce, design and culture. The second largest city in Mexico, it has world class museums, amazing restaurants, a diverse and cosmopolitan culture, a historic town center, a subway system and is highly walkable. You can't talk about Guadalajara without talking about Puerto Vallarta.

I include Puerto Vallarta here for several reasons. Vallarta is an up and coming locale which is tightly linked to Guadalajara. It is the closest beach resort to Guadalajara with direct highway linkages between the two cities. It is a tourist destination for national and international tourists alike and finally because of the gay index in which Richard Florida has written so much about.

While Guadalajara has an established an highly visible gay community, Puerto Vallarta is gaining a reputation as a world wide gay destination. Vallarta has always been welcoming towards gay tourism and many gay people from across Mexico have moved to town, opening up businesses and tourist attractions. Now there is a second wave taking place in Vallarta as gay people from the United States move to town to retire or to set up gay friendly businesses. The more tolerant the town the more inviting it is to the creative class. The two cities are symbiotically tied therefore I have lumped the two cities together as a mega region.

3. Tijuana - Ensenada
While I'm not sure if Mr. Florida had already included Tijuana as part of the Southern California mega region he should have. While often maligned as the crime ridden and chaotic cousin to San Diego it is a dynamic region that has seen explosive economic growth.

The fifth largest city in Mexico, Tijuana has the busiest border crossing in the world and an immense concentration of industry. But often overlooked is the large population of educated young people who are often deeply steeped in both the cultures of the United States and Mexico and well versed in both English and Spanish. Add to this mix a diverse collection of cultures and the incredible art scene that has been exploding into bloom in recent years, a direct result of being in the center of the juxtaposition of such radically different worlds between California and Mexico.

The Nortec electronic music scene was born here. Art is everywhere and its gaining worldwide attention.Tijuana is chaotic but it is often that chaos that breeds creativity....especially when it is beside a rigidly ordered place like California. Whether it be the Insite Tijuana program or the crosses and coffin installations at the border wall, creativity is growing and this makes Tijuana and Ensenada a mega region to watch.

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