Twenty “megapolitan” areas with potential equivalent to the richest foreign countries are emerging in our nation. Arizona – with its natural assets, spirit of free enterprise and open culture – is home to one of these, the Sun Corridor.
These vast regions’ competitiveness will drive massive economic and social opportunities.
Once a rural state dominated by ranching and mining, Arizona now is faced with tremendous challenges.
The emergence of cities in the Sun Corridor was encouraged and constrained by the physical barriers of mountains, deserts and distance. The result has been a disconnected planning paradigm and an incoherent vision.
As one of the newest megapolitans and one of the few with the greatest natural capital, Arizona can plan and build the world’s first sustainable region, meaning economic growth and wealth generation are matched with continuously enhanced natural and social capital.
The achievement of sustainability through innovation and careful market-driven designs would position the Sun Corridor as America’s leading center for creativity at all levels and in all sectors in a changing world energy arena.
To move in this direction, Arizona must develop a new psychology. With our opportunities and challenges, Arizona will have to think more like a country and less like a disparate set of isolated areas.
For Arizona, thinking like a nation means planning to compete against the best in Singapore, Shanghai and Frankfurt. Beyond that, the Sun Corridor must be the American megapolitan that finds the way to lead in education, sustainability and the free enterprise driving creativity and innovation.
Arizona with the Sun Corridor at its heart should strive to be known for policies and investments that enable us to compete with:
• Greece or Spain for tourist experiences
• France or Singapore, technology development
• Germany or Japan, renewable energy
• Costa Rica or Sweden, sustainability-based design and business development
We must change our perspective from a small American state to one that recognizes Arizona as a “republic” capable of economic advance, sustainable development and global engagement.
The bottom line of Arizona’s Sun Corridor is that demographic shifts in America and global trends in competitiveness offer our state matchless prospects for evolving one of the world’s economic, technological and cultural centers.
But the chance will not wait and neither can we in shaping an outcome that will enhance the wealth of all Arizonans for decades to come.
Michael M. Crow is president of Arizona State University.
CHALLENGE: How to live sensibly in a hot, crowded place