The Intermountain MPOs - About Us
The Intermountain MPOs is an alliance of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) serving as Transportation Management Areas (TMAs) to facilitate stronger communication and interaction in the Intermountain region - Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, and Utah - to empower regional leaders’ strategic efforts in addressing interregional transportation and infrastructure issues at the federal level. To contact any of the Intermountain MPOs, click here...
In a July 2008 report, Mountain Megas: America’s Newest Metropolitan Places and a Federal Partnership to Help Them Prosper, the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program noted that “states in the southern Intermountain West are experiencing some of the fastest population growth and economic and demographic transition anywhere in the country” and “is earning itself the title of the New American Heartland as its economy, people, and politics become more central to the nation.”
The Brookings’ report concludes that “the massive, ongoing change that has been convulsing the Intermountain West shows no sign of ceasing,” despite the current economic and migration slowdown, and highlights the following:
The Intermountain West—dominated by its five vast “megapolitan” areas—has emerged as America’s fastest changing, most surprisingly urban region.
In this respect, the Mountain West’s current development, economic, and social trends describe a region in the midst of massive transformation. The region is neither the Old West, nor the New West. It is the New New West, continuously unfolding:
- A surprisingly urban population explosion continues.
Together, the “mountain megas” are home to more than 80 percent of their five states’ population, employment, and economic and cultural activity, and have captured almost all of the region’s recent growth. They include some of the fastest growing places anywhere in the country (Las Vegas) and have captured 13 percent of the nation’s growth so far this decade. What is more, the Intermountain States and their megas have grown surprisingly urban, with urban Denver and Salt Lake achieving densities as high as urban Chicago and higher than urban Boston.
- The Intermountain West’s economy is rapidly changing.
Job creation far above the national average in industries serving local markets (such as health services, real estate, and construction) has ensured that few workers remain in resource-extraction industries or in agriculture despite their historical importance to the region. At the same time, a new, high-value Intermountain economy has come into focus that is anchored by clusters of firms in critical, often wellpaying“traded,” or export, industries such as hospitality and tourism, information technology, aerospace,or knowledge creation. The nature, size, and competitiveness of these strategic export clusters vary across the megas but they represent the shape of the future. However, while the region’s megas have been moving up the value chain, they still have a ways to go to achieve truly top-flight productive growth. Average labor productivity—a critical measure of economic potency—rose in the megapolitan West from about $79,500 per year in 2001 to $85,400 per year in 2005. But the 2005 figure in the region remained slightly beneath the national average of $87,800, and only the Front Range among the megas exhibited above average productivity. What is more, productivity growth across the megapolitan West also lagged national rates, with output per job rising by just 1.8 percent on average each year from 2001 to 2005 compared to 2.3 percent nationwide. Not surprisingly, living standards—as measured by per capita income—have also been rising though they remain below the national average in all Mountain megas except the Front Range.
- Rapid growth is changing the face of the region.
On this front, the region’s demographic vitality reflects its robust dynamics on all components of population change. Strong natural increases of population continue to be complemented by rapid in-migration from other parts of the country (especially from the “old Sun Belt” states of CA, TX, and FL) and immigration from abroad (especially from Mexico and Latin America). Although the region remains 80 percent white, it has experienced steady and sizable increases in its Hispanic population. The region’s labor force, meanwhile, is quite well educated, but educational gaps have opened especially between the foreign-born and native populations and between non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics, blacks, and Native Americans. Finally, a once-egalitarian, middle-class region has seen its prominent middle class dwindle as stark income disparities have appeared.
- The long boom of the Intermountain State megas will likely continue.
Nationwide, projections completed for this report anticipate America may add its next 100 million residents by 2040, and by all indications the Intermountain West will gain a disproportionate share of the coming growth. Along these lines, the five Intermountain West megas are together projected to add nearly 12.7 million residents and more than 8 million jobs by 2040. This means the Mountain megas’ population and job bases could each roughly double by 2040 from 2005 levels. Such projected expansion will also have tremendous implications for the built environment and regional construction activity. Such growth, for example, would require the megapolitan West to nearly double the number of housing units that were on the ground in 2005 (5.6 million units) while replacing or upgrading another two million. Equally staggering, a total of 9.4 billion square feet of new or replacement non-residential space may need to be built to accommodate the coming new jobs. The estimated construction cost attached to this massive growth and replacement of structures in the megapolitan West could approach $2.25 trillion for housing and $916 billion for non-residential space.
- Link: Mountain Megas: America's Newest Metropolitan Places and a Federal Partnership to Help Them Prosper
Emergence of Megaregions
The Regional Plan Association (www.rpa.org) identified the growing importance of megaregions in its 2008 report, America 2050 - An Infrastructure Vision for 21st Century America. According to the report, “Megaregions are America’s gateways to the global economy where global ports, airports, communication centers, financial and marketing centers converge, noting that they can play an important role in identifying the components of a national infrastructure investment plan.”
In the future, organizations such as the Intermountain MPOs will begin to play an important regional and national role to address infrastructure systems requiring federal assistance and coordination that cross multiple city, region, and state boundaries such as:
- High speed rail systems connecting cities within megaregions
- Major seaports and their landside intermodal connections to distribution centers
- Freight rail and highways
- Multistate interstate corridors that require technology investments or strategic congestion relief