From the Desk of Lynn Woolf: July 30, 2013

Urban sprawl has been influencing rural life for decades. In fact, that sprawl has brought new customers into your dealership and contributed to the rural lifestyle and large property owner segment. Now, policy makers, land developers, planning officials and others are watching another urban/rural development trend: Megaregions. By 2050, there are expected to be 11 megaregions across the U.S.

America 2050, a project of the Regional Plan Assn., defines a megaregion this way: Multiple, adjacent metropolitan areas connected by overlapping commuting patterns, business travel, environmental landscapes and watersheds, linked economies and social networks.

Map from America 2050
By 2050, experts say the U.S. will have 11 megaregions, where multiple adjacent metropolitan areas will share economies and infrastructure. Click to enlarge

The Great Lakes megaregion, for example, will include the cities of Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. This megaregion is expected to experience a 28.3% growth in population by 2050. The Texas Triangle is another megaregion and includes the cities of Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. About 70% of the Texas population is expected to live in this region by 2050.

Urban planners are interested in this trend because of the impact on resources and infrastructure. What do these megaregions mean for rural America?

I asked Rusty Hamrick that question. He’s a land broker with Huff Creek Properties, Greenville, S.C., who serves rural lifestyle clients as well as buyers and sellers of timberland and recreational tracts. He wrote a blog post recently on the topic for LandThink, an online resource for land professionals and investors.

Rusty Hamrick is a land broker with Huff Creek Properties.
Rusty Hamrick is a land broker with Huff Creek Properties.

He thinks the trend will be positive for land demand and values. “As the populations increase, it will mean more buyers and more sellers. I see it affecting rural land values in a positive way. We’re in recovery now and the increased population will mean more demand for housing.”

2050 and the opportunities of serving new home and landowners in these megaregions may seem like a long way off. However, look at your youngest family member working at your dealership or your youngest employee. Megaregions will be a reality in their lifetime.

I’m not recommending developing a 40-year strategic plan, but just be aware of the megaregions developing in your corner of the country. Hamrick says understanding the population growth can help guide decisions made now, such as where to build a new facility. And take advantage of opportunities to serve on municipal planning committees. An insider’s view will be especially important as conservation and environmental issues may collide with land development projects.

These megaregions are all about growth. Watch the changes and adapt your strategies and product offerings to ensure your dealership grows as well. For instance, some equipment sought by urban customers, such as quieter mowers, may now be appealing to rural customers with a fresh set of neighbors. And, the equipment sought by large property owners may be in even more demand as these metro areas stretch out.

This is all good news for dealers who are ready.

Lynn Woolf,
Managing Editor
Rural Lifestyle Dealer