Business diversity drives growth in the United States, but there is also geographic diversity whereby certain regions specialize in particular industries. For example, the Midwest is considered “America’s Heartland,” its farming region, and America’s manufacturing rebirth continues in the Southeast. An “energy revolution” has hit some regions, with Texas, historically America’s oil producer, now joined by North Dakota and Oklahoma. And the East Coast boasts vastly different businesses than the West Coast.

The East Coast Economy

The part of the East Coast that runs the majority of its economic output is the northern to mid-Atlantic region. Cities such as New York, Boston, and Washington DC dominate many of the businesses that drive this region’s economy, the largest being the U.S. federal government. In addition, the country’s substantial finance/banking center is primarily on the East Coast. The largest stock exchange, the New York Stock Exchange, and NASDAQ headquarters are both in New York. Many of America’s global giants are located in the Northeast, such as health insurer Aetna (AET), pharmaceutical leader Pfizer, Inc. (PFE), telecom leader Verizon Communications (VZ), media stronghold Time Warner, Inc. (TWX), conglomerates General Electric (GE) and Honeywell International, Inc. (HON), manufacturing great E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company or DuPont (DD), investment banks like Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (GS) and financial payments company MasterCard Worldwide (MA).

The West Coast Economy

Like the East Coast, the West Coast boasts several large, dominant industries. The West Coast is the gatekeeper for international trade. California, Oregon and Washington have the major ports for trade between the United States and Asia that support the exchange of goods ranging from American agricultural products to Asian manufactured products. As Asian economies continue to develop and participate more in the global economy, these ports have become increasing integral to the world economy.

Other major businesses are located on the West Coast with the most well known being the tech companies of Silicon Valley, the epicenter of the technology boom. Global leaders like Apple Inc. (AAPL), Google, Inc. (GOOG) and Facebook, Inc. (FB) reside here. This area, located in the San Francisco-San Jose region of California continues to be the birthplace for technology thought leaders and breakthrough companies. Not to be left behind, the Pacific Northwest is becoming a new center of technological innovation with major tech companies like Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) and Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) as well as other businesses such as the aerospace leader The Boeing Company (BA) and the retailers Costco Wholesale Corporation (COST) and Starbucks Corporation (SBUX).

West vs. East

The cultural divide between the West and East is just slightly narrower than the divide between the western and eastern hemispheres. The fast-paced, aggressive, no-nonsense culture of the East is balanced by the West’s laid back, relaxed, entrepreneurial attitude. This is not to say that  West Coasters do not work hard and East Coasters do not know how to relax, but much cross-coastal movement by companies reflects the characteristics offered by the other side and a desire to leverage those strengths. Technology mavens like Google and Facebook have opened offices in New York, while many financial firms have a presence on the West Coast. 

The Bottom Line

The East Coast and West Coast disproportionately contribute to the total economic output of the United States, albeit from extremely different industries and business cultures. The East’s focus on finance and banking contrasts with the West’s drive toward technological innovation. But one thing is clear—each knows it needs the other. From investment and financial support to logistical and trade capability, the complementary offerings allow the U.S. economy to function efficiently and grow at a steady pace. Cultural differences between the two coasts are trumped by the most important shared trait—the drive to succeed.

Disclaimer: The author owns shares of FB, GOOG, T, CMCSA, MSFT, and GE at time of publication.