Friday, April 04, 2008

Beware of the One True Church of Regionalism

A friend of mine was stranded by the side of the road recently, so she decided to take advantage of the Toyoguard Plus Roadside Assistance service she got with her new Toyota.

She waited eons… so long in fact that some tow trucks stopped to see if they could help.

When the tow truck did arrive, she learned that Toyoguard has fallen victim to what we call “one size fits all” regionalists. These are the folks who thinly wrap Raleigh-centric notions in with the motherhood and apple pie of the oft-misused term “regionalism.”

The tow truck contractor was attempting to provide roadside assistance to Durham from Clayton, a world and many communities away from here, on the other side of Raleigh.

We need to think regionally for many things, e.g., traffic, but to be business-friendly, we need to be clear this region is polycentric, a term coined by an executive of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership.

Polycentric, he explained, means there is no dominant center here. What we call a region is family of six or more counties and 26 very distinct cities and towns.

Very different and much more attractive than the old school “one big place” regions centered around one big city in the middle of many equidistant nodes.

Some people using the term regionalism are working to undermine the essence of the Triangle and quietly eroding the viability of communities.

Just compare listings in Durham today with 20 years ago and see how many financial services, news media, financial planners, office equipment repair technicians, even retailers, cultural groups and restaurants have been beguiled into believing Durham residents can just commute to other cities for services or, as my friend did, wait an absurd amount of time in the cold and rain.

Regionalism may be the “one true church,” but “beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

1 comment:

Tom Christoffel said...

Hello Reyn -
Relative to my region, the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I've tested with success, the description that our 20 local governments are a "regional community of communities" for nearly 15 years. Polycentric is the same idea. For us it scales up to the entire Shenandoah Valley and then, the Mid-Atlantic. All regions - all communities of communities, with a few other scales/levels in-between.
A link to your post will be in the April 9, 2008 issue of Regional Community Development News. It will be on-line April 10 at Please visit, check the tools and consider a link. I've had links to the Triangle and its regions for the past five years. Tom