16 Jun

As Richard Florida argues, it’s an idea whose time has come.

…mega-regions have replaced the nation-state as the economic drivers of the global economy. These are places like Bos-Wash (the Boston-New York-Washington corridor), Chi-Pitts (running from Chicago through Detroit and Cleveland and over to Pittsburgh), Nor-Cal (around San Francisco and the Silicon Valley), Cascadia (which stretches from Portland through Seattle and Vancouver), Europe’s Am-Burs-Twerp (from Amsterdam to Brussels and Antwerp), Lon-Leed-Chester (around London) and Asia’s greater Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai.

Clunky sounding or not, the 10 largest mega-regions account for 43 percent of the planet’s economic activity and more than half of its patented innovations and star scientists. They generate all those pioneering breakthroughs while housing only 6.5 percent of the planet’s population. And to take an even broader overhead view, the top 40 mega-regions produce 66 percent of the world’s economic activity and more than 80 percent of its patented innovations and most-cited scientists, still while being home to just 18 percent of the world’s population.

Tor-Buff-Chester is one of the world’s very biggest mega-regions, bigger than the San Francisco-Silicon Valley megaregion, Greater Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and more than twice the size of Cascadia in the Pacific Northwest. Its economic might is equivalent to more than half of all of Canada’s. If it were its own country, it would number among the 16 biggest in the world, with economic output bigger than that of Sweden, the Netherlands or Australia.

Being able to run a great think tank — the Martin Rotman Prosperity Institute — in this great mega-region is what moved me back to it. I know both Buffalo and Toronto pretty well. During my time in Buffalo, I endured some large snowstorms, lived in the terrific Elmwood neighborhood, ate my share of real chicken wings and beef on weck and took in as many Bills and Sabres games as I could.

At that time, Buffalonians always would remind me of how, during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, it was Buffalo with its manufacturing muscle and exciting downtown that was the more energetic, stronger city while Toronto rolled up the sidewalks at 10 p. m.

Times change, and these days Toronto has become the engine of the mega-region. Greater Toronto is growing at a fantastic clip, adding thousands of immigrants and 115,000 people a year. But it’s also clear that Buffalo’s economic hemorrhaging has stabilized. Despite shedding 17 percent of its manufacturing jobs between 2001 and 2005, the region’s manufacturing sector actually expanded its output by 3.5 percent, according to a study by UB’s Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth. The same report shows an increase in creative-class jobs in information technology, financial and business services, which I define as ones where people use their minds to create economic value.

Not only is Toronto growing, it isn’t resting on its laurels. One can whine all day about Canada’s socialism, cleanliness, friendliness, and aggressive drivers, but does Buffalo have an agenda for prosperity? Does Rochester? Or are we on the US side of this mega-region satisified instead to harken back to the good ol’ days of Xerox and Kodak; of GM and Bethlehem Steel?

Compare Toronto’s “doing business” section on its website to Buffalo’s, which recently got a re-vamp that actually added a “businesses” section.

The second section of Toronto’s site is its “agenda for prosperity.” In Buffalo, it’s “incentives“.

They plan for growth. We beg for stasis.

In any event, setting aside the completely different mindsets when it comes to growth and prosperity, Buffalo needs to re-focus its gaze in many ways. We need to stop wringing our hands over past mistakes and instead develop a plan to learn from them and avoid making similar ones in the future. We need to – and I admit I’m the biggest culprit of this – stop whining about Albany this and Albany that, and start looking beyond Albany – start looking beyond downstate’s comparative prosperity and figure out a roadmap to Western New York’s return to prosperity.

Look forwards, not backwards.

We need to look to Toronto, look to Rochester, look to the Southern Tier, look to Erie, and realize that the megaregion has much to offer. The border is an impediment to this, but it is not insurmountable. There are small, symbolic ways to begin the mental integration of this mega-region right now. It’s things like when Skybus was going to call the Niagara Falls International Airport “Toronto/Niagara” on its website. It’s things like the Bills playing a few games in Toronto or the Sabres playing a few games in Rochester. There is so much potential within a 100 mile radius of the city of Buffalo, as the epicenter of the mega-region Florida talks about.

We just need to start tapping it, and develop a plan to integrate the region.

21 Responses to “Tor-Buff-Chester”

  1. Chris from OP June 16, 2008 at 4:14 pm #

    $0.02 And the chance of TorBuffChester becoming a cohesive economic powerhouse when it’s made progressively more difficult and annoying to cross the border? Not so hot I dare say.

    $0.04 I think the potential of the mega-region is incredible, but it requires some real statesmen on both sides of the border on the local, state/provincial, and national levels.

  2. Jim Ostrowski June 16, 2008 at 4:39 pm #

    Buffalo has an agenda for the prosperity of the political class as it has had for over fifty years. They are sucking the economy dry to pay for their lavish pensions, large homes and vacation homes and the corporate welfare that keeps the TV ad money rolling in. Life is good (for them).

    Since Buffalo is not the capital of the world like NYC or the economic capital of a foreign country, our only agenda for general prosperity is the free market.

  3. Jim Allen June 16, 2008 at 4:43 pm #

    I agree whole-heartedly with BP…we need to stop whining about and scapegoating “Albany” for our lack of economic prosperity. We need to embrace the future, in particular a global future comprised of mega-regions. We need to look to Southern Ontario from Waterloo to northern Toronto; Erie to our west; the Southern Tier; and to Rochester to create a vibrant and sustainable regional economy. Let’s not wait for our elected officials to get the memo but ALL responsible citizens need to insist on building a region that attracts creative and energetic people and makes our children want to stay rather than seek fame and fortune elsewhere. This opportunity has been staring us in the face for decades. Maybe we’ve been waiting for someone like Richard Florida to point out the obvious to us. Let’s do it!!!!

  4. hank June 16, 2008 at 5:35 pm #

    Gotta go with my good friend and former classmate Jim O. on this one. Toronto has no NYS Government and it’s ridiculous “Authority System” to deal with. If it has Economic Development groups, they probably WORK TOGETHER FOR THE GOOD OF THE REGION.

    Finally, Toronto obviously has no “Political Class” embedded for over 50 years that force the city down a road it should not travel for their benefit, no “100 people who run Toronto”, etc.

    Mega regions appear to be the wave of the future. Tor-Buff-Chester could be another. But State government would have to be stripped to the bone, laid waste to allow growth. There’s just too many politicians (PARTY AFFILITATION REDUNDANT) who stand to lose too much to let it happen.

    A “Tax Revolt”, as Jim’s Free Buffalo and Free NY started a few years back would have to be more than a revolt–a true REVOLUTION would be required for this to happen. Energized voter base–hundreds of thousands of dedicated and involved citizens banging down the doors of BB’s City Hall, Chris Collins’ County Hall and the doors of power in Albany, asking the question “HOW LONG MUST THIS BULLSHIT GO ON???” before any of the wonderful platitudes that BP speaks of (and I agree with him) can be realized.

    It’s up to the citizens. Gotta Get Jimmy Griffins’ Joe Six Packs off their dead asses from Lazy-Boy’s, Bar Stools and Union Hall benches and out into the streets to protest and raise hell. Love to see it. Don’t think it likely though.

    Too many are willing to let people like Lenihan,
    Wilmers, Phil Rumore, etc run their lives for them. I mean, what would they have to bitch about if things got better?

  5. Buffalo Hodgepodge June 16, 2008 at 9:41 pm #

    You can take out the “Buff-Chester” from “Tor-Buff-Chester” and I don’t think you move any of the metrics a whole lot.

  6. Starbuck June 16, 2008 at 10:55 pm #

    Hodgepodge, that proves the great potential Dr. Florida feels certain we have.

    Same goes for those slackers in Chester. He’s feelin a lot of potential there too. Just look at that map and the circles. Geez, how much clearer can he make it for us?

    Come on all you responsible citizens, you read what Mr. Allen said to do. Get with the program, ALL of you! Not only are we looking to Tor… we’re looking to Waterloo… then we’re looking to Chester… and Erie… and we’re going to look to the whole Southern Tier! Yeaaahhhhhhhhhhhaggghhhhh!!!

  7. STEEL June 16, 2008 at 11:08 pm #

    I think he is stretching a bit when he includes Montreal.

  8. indabuff June 16, 2008 at 11:49 pm #

    I am into a thing called Sloan-Akro-Enezer…we don’t need mega regions…we need MEGA HAMLETS…

    Seriously though, our region really needs to take a serious look at taking better advantage of our proximity to Tonto.

    It is really not that difficult of a concept to embrace…the thing is how do we get from here to there and make it work.

  9. Howard Goldman June 17, 2008 at 8:33 am #

    Last time I checked the Mayors Council stats, the (USA only) Buffalo Niagara metro area had the 99th largest economy in the world.

    Our economy is bigger than we think.

  10. Howard Goldman June 17, 2008 at 8:34 am #

    ….and that is 99th largest out of all economies in the world including states and countries.

  11. Eric P. June 17, 2008 at 9:14 am #


  12. tgetman June 17, 2008 at 9:41 am #

    I think that Mr. Florida makes a lot of good points in his column, check out my site to see, what I believe, what needs to be done in the future.

  13. reflip June 17, 2008 at 10:30 am #


    You think Buffalonians like the status quo? Try Rochester. Rochesterians won’t want any part of this.

    Buffalo, however, very much can have a future with Southern Ontario…eh?

  14. Talkin_Proud June 17, 2008 at 3:23 pm #

    Howard Goldman — I agree. We’re not as small as we think. I read an article recently that stated Buffalo-Niagara’s economic output at something like $35 billion / year.

    Larger than some countries but certainly far behind other U.S. cities.

  15. Chris from OP June 17, 2008 at 3:32 pm #

    One thing that would be useful to the cohesiveness of and economic vitality of TorBuffChester would be to form a consortium of Universities and Colleges with active student/professor/asset sharing.

    Encourage students from U of Toronto, York and Ryerson to spend a semester or two at UB or Canisius, or Rochester, or Eastman or RIT and vice-versa. At the very least, it would create thousands of Canadians who would just have to come back a couple of times a year for real wings. At most, it could forge billions of dollars in cross-border business ties.

  16. Denizen June 17, 2008 at 4:40 pm #

    “Tor-Buff-Chester” is more a figment of Florida’s imagination than anything resembling reality of the everyday lives of the people who live in and around those cities.

    Fuel prices are going to keep going up. As a result of this our world is going to become much bigger again, not continue to shrink. Specific localities will become far more important to people’s lives once expensive transportation starts crimping the hyper-mobility we’ve taken for granted the past few decades.

    Oh yeah, then there’s the border issue.

  17. Jim Allen June 17, 2008 at 5:00 pm #

    Fuel prices and our current border issues are both valid problems but a collaborative approach to problem solving is more likely to result in alternative fuels and technological solutions to border security than simply burying our heads in the sand. Florida is not implying that the creation of megaregions, in particular across national borders, will be easy but aren’t you sick of all the hand wringing that our region continues to do whenever confronted with difficult and seemingly intractable problems? I’m sick of it and will do whatever needs to be done to convince the residents of Buffalo Niagara that creating a vibrant, prosperous future is possible. Stop bitching and let’s create our future!!!!!

  18. Prodigal Son June 17, 2008 at 8:48 pm #

    Buffalo would be the largest city in its state if it was in one of 21 other states (you can check statistics and make the list). The largest city in each state benefits from being in that position (i.e. Milwaukee, Omaha, Indianapolis, Denver, Portland, Seattle, etc etc).

    The point is, 1.1 million people, $35 billion in GDP and the 99th largest economy in the world ain’t bad. We just have an inferioirty complex because the CENTER OF THE PLANET is 350 miles downstate.

    I agree with the Pundit’s basic point, and I find hope in Richard Florida’s idea.

    But I have a different view: I see a generational change required in Buffalo’s future, and we’re behind the rest of the country in that. Instead of railing against Albany, or the unions, or the politicians, I think the thing holding Buffalo back is the giant hole in the 22-45 age bracket.

    I am a repat, and 30. I have had a hell of a time finding a job in Buffalo. In fact, I don’t work here – I am am independent contractor, and have to fly to work. I just choose to live in Buffalo – I could live anywhere. The reason I can’t find a job, I believe, is because of my job experience – in my last position I had 60 people working for me and a $10 million budget. In Las Vegas. In Vegas, and Denver, and Charlotte, and LA, and San Fran, and NY, and Chicago, lots of 30 year olds have that level of responsibility, and make $60K-$100K for it. In Buffalo, 55 year olds have that job, make $50K to do it, and have been waiting 20 years to get there.

    Chris Smith, in the Livery post, said this town needs a collective organizational enema. I couldn’t agree more. It needs young people with new ideas who see new opportunities and new ways to solve problems. This happens in other places. It doesn’t happen here. I don’t want to have to wait for the Baby Boomers to retire or die before we look at a new idea. But usually, that’s where it seems to be going.

    So Pundit, I hope you’re right. But are we going to take the fresh look at this new opportunity, and embrace it? Or wait until 2028, and ask why we didn’t make better decisions 20 years ago?

  19. Cybele June 17, 2008 at 9:00 pm #

    Having dwelled along the Thruway cities (Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse) there are some things I can say for certain. 1) Ra-cha-cha will turn their nose up at anything having to do with Buffalo. 2) Downtown Syracuse makes Buffalo look like Manhattan (to give you the idea of the size of our city and economy) 3) I think we need a bullet train or other speed rail connecting Buffalo to Cha-Cha to SadExcuse to assist in the idea of mega regions. I would love to make a right turn North to TO, but I am afraid that the Bush Intelligentia who jealously guard the American opportunity, ooops, I mean Homeland Security, would make incorporating TO into a mega region impossible.


  1. NYCO’s Blog » Splitter! - March 6, 2009

    […] I don’t think much of Richard Florida’s “TorBuffChester” concept either – if we’re shopping for buzzwords, I’m still more impressed with […]

  2. The Creative Class and Self Employment | - July 13, 2009

    […] a big fan of Richard Florida. He’s the “Creative Class” guy who refers to Tor-Buff-Chester like its a real place. He has a blog that’s part of my daily read, and today, they’re […]

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