Nicholas Vardy

Getting a new perspective on an old idea can be jarring.

Take the example of a world map.

Just look at how different the map above looks compared to the one you’ve seen your entire life. (Source:

How can something so familiar seem so disorienting?

First, it reminds you that ideas of “north” and “south” are arbitrary constructs.

Second, the map is also “rotated” so that China, Indonesia and Australia are in the center of the world. The United States and Europe are little more than “southern” backwaters.

You can apply a similar shift in perspective to looking at the U.S. economy.

In an open economy — such as the United States and, to a lesser extent, the European Union — political borders are artificial, and almost irrelevant, in getting a handle on areas driving economic growth.

U.S. Economy: ‘Asian Tigers’ in the U.S. Heartland

The U.S. economy grew at just 1.8% in 2013 and contracted an eye popping 2.9% in Q1.

That made it by far the worst-performing major economy in the world.

But the United States is a big country, and different parts are growing at different rates. Thanks to the boom in mining and the shale energy revolution, some parts are growing faster than the Asian Tigers.

North Dakota’s economy grew at 9.7% last year. About the size of Bulgaria, North Dakota would be among fastest-growing economies in the world. Wyoming next door grew by 7.6%, followed by West Virginia and Oklahoma. Even Texas’ hefty $1.4 trillion economy — about the size of Spain’s economy — grew at a solid 3.8%.

Clearly, some parts of the United States are doing better than others.

In fact, it’s almost deceptive to even think of the U.S. economy in terms of states.

It is better to look at the United States as the summation of various “mega regions.”

Richard Florida and his colleagues at the Martin Prosperity Institute identified 40 contiguous lighted areas across the planet with more than one major city or metropolitan region that produced more than $100 billion in economic output. The United States alone has 12 of these areas.

Nicholas Vardy

Nicholas Vardy is currently editor of the monthly investment newsletter, The Alpha Investor Letter, which provides longer-term global investments. He also writes two weekly trading services, Triple Digit Trader and Bull Market Alert, which focus on making short-term profits in the hottest markets in the world.