Report suggests more money be put into cities

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WASHINGTON (AP) Metropolitan areas powered the nation's economic good times during the 1990s, said a U.S. Conference of Mayors report aimed at persuading Congress and the White House to pump more money into cities and suburbs.

America's 319 largest metro areas accounted for 85 percent of the nation's gross domestic product and 84 percent of the country's jobs, according to the report being released Tuesday.

While 1990s boom areas like Las Vegas and Austin, Texas, saw the biggest increases, longtime leaders like New York also benefited.

For instance, the report said that the New York metro economy was the 14th largest in the world in 2000 bigger than Australia, the Netherlands and Taiwan.

''Cities are economic powerhouses,'' said New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, the conference president.

Morial said the findings offer more evidence that Washington lawmakers must sharpen their focus to help metropolitan areas build on that growth. He highlighted transportation, brownfields development, and education and job training as areas for more investment.

''We are not painting a picture of utopia,'' he said. ''But we think the role that cities played in the country's economic comeback has been forgotten. It's a common view to look at cities as being draining on metro economies.''

Still, much of the growth among metro areas is related to population changes tracked by the latest census, said Bruce Katz, director of the Brookings Institution's Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy.

Nationally, the census showed that 226 million people lived in metro areas in 2000, up 14 percent from 1990.

Suburban population grew 22 percent to 140.6 million, while the number of Americans living in central cities increased 10 percent to 85.4 million.

While cities especially in the South and West experienced population and economic booms, much of the major growth is happening at the fringe of metropolitan areas ''off the exit ramps'', Katz said.

The report compiled by Standard and Poor's DRI ranked the country's 319 largest metro areas, and compared their economies to states and other countries.

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