The changing face of our region
by Susan Haigh
special to Sun Thisweek
If you’ve recently visited one of the region’s elementary schools, you’ve seen our future in more ways than one. In 2010, people of color comprised 24 percent of the regional population.
By 2040, projections suggest that 43 percent of the residents in the region will be persons of color. Our region will soon look more like the diversity visible in almost any of our second grade classrooms.
The rapid increase in diversity as well as our anticipated population gain of nearly 900,000 people by 2040, are very positive signs for our region. Immigrants want to put down roots here because substantial economic opportunity exists in our region.
The Metropolitan Council included these predictions in our preliminary 2040 forecast. This forecast is one of the first steps in our work to draft the region’s 2040 metropolitan development guide. The guide, which is mandated by state statute, is the region’s long-range strategic plan. It ensures that the council and local governments are taking proactive measures to accommodate growth in the population, housing and jobs, as well as demographic changes within the population.
We’ve named the 2040 guide “Thrive MSP 2040” with good reason. We believe based on the historical evidence and the projections of our forecast that planning together as one region will ensure we continue to grow and thrive over the next 30 years.
The seven-county Twin Cities region currently boasts and will maintain during the next 30 years more than its proportional share of the national economy. Our region, which is home to 19 Fortune 500 companies, will produce a Gross Metro Product equal to 1.5 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, or national economy.
With only about 1 percent of the nation’s population, the region will stay ahead of the game as long as we continue to be creative and intentional about adapting to change.
Beyond increasing diversity, we’ll need to adapt to the gray-boom, which will also change the face of our region. Our 65 and over population will more than double by 2040.
Not only will this require that government agencies adapt the services we provide to residents, but it will necessitate a change in our housing stock.
Seniors have different housing needs than younger populations, and also smaller household sizes. Because of a rapid increase in one- and two-person households, the number of households will increase at a more rapid pace than population or job growth.
This means that the private sector as well as the public sector will need to prepare for the aging of our residents, amongst other anticipated changes.
Preparations to maximize the benefits of our growth and demographic shifts are under way. This preliminary forecast is one of the first major steps in addressing these changes and developing Thrive MSP 2040. Another essential step is engagement of individuals and communities in developing the guide.
In the coming months, the Met Council will be looking for input from residents, officials and experts alike about how our region should look and feel and the ways in which we can prepare for the changes we expect in our population and economy.
The seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area is one region, with one economy. Today, we’re successfully competing against other regions like Portland, Dallas and Denver. Our ability to continue to attract the people we need to replace the retiring baby boomers, as well as the jobs we need to grow our economy and compete globally depends on our ability to work together and plan for our long-term prosperity. Working together, our whole region can thrive.
Susan Haigh is chair of the Metropolitan Council. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.