You may live in Columbia, Dundalk or Aberdeen, but so far as the federal government is concerned, you're now a resident of America's newest twin-cities: Baltimore-Towson.
Nearly 150 years after voters chose Towson as headquarters for the new Baltimore County government to keep county leaders away from the corrupting influences and high taxes of Baltimore, Maryland's biggest city and the nation's largest unincorporated county seat find themselves yoked together again.
When the federal Office of Management and Budget completed its once-a-decade review of the classifications it uses in naming metropolitan statistical areas this year, it decided to give more recognition to suburban communities with major employment centers.
That means that the Baltimore Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes the city and the surrounding suburban counties, is now the Baltimore-Towson MSA.
"Baltimore County has diverse housing stock, family-supporting jobs and superb schools. It's a great place to live, work and raise a family," said Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr.'s spokesman, Damian O'Doherty. "Frankly, we're surprised it's not been designated as the Towson-Baltimore Metropolitan Statistical Area."
Mayor Martin O'Malley's office saw the new name a bit differently.
"Baltimore City is enjoying a renaissance and is seeing rising home values, improved test scores in our schools and just recorded the biggest reduction in violent crime of any city," said O'Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory. "It's good news that Towson can partake in our success."
Baltimore-Towson isn't the only new pairing. Chicago is now officially the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet MSA. New York shares billing with Newark and Edison, N.J. And Minneapolis-St. Paul took on Bloomington, the home of the Mall of America.
Dunbar Brooks, a demographer with the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, said Baltimore's new name makes sense because it, like most major cities, has seen significant growth in suburban jobs for years.
Why the OMB picked Towson as opposed to some other suburban employment base is a bit of a mystery, he said.
"There were a lot of quizzical looks on people's faces when that was announced," he said.
More significant than the Baltimore-Towson combination, said Baltimore Metropolitan Council spokeswoman Barbara Herron, is the OMB's decision to keep Baltimore and Washington together as another type of geographical statistical entity. The term for the combined area changed, and its boundaries shifted a little, but keeping the cities together gives them more clout.
"It's the fourth-largest, fourth-wealthiest and third-fastest-growing in the U.S.," she said.
Just as Baltimore benefits from being considered with the more prominent city of Washington, Towson boosters see benefits in being associated with their better-known neighbor to the south.
Although Greater Towson Council of Community Associations President Don Wright joked when he heard the news that it was "time to build a wall," he said the new name comes at a fortuitous time.
Under the leadership of County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall-Towson Democrat, a group of business and community leaders has been working in recent months to find ways to revitalize the county seat, and getting such prominent billing can't hurt, Wright said.
The change doesn't have any real practical effect - it doesn't mean the boundaries of the MSA are different, and it doesn't change the region's eligibility for any sorts of federal programs.
But businesses tend to look at MSA statistics when they're thinking of relocating or expanding, and including Towson in the name could have great public relations value.