Economic Success Stories Start in the Heart of the Heartland: Small Towns

There is reason — and research — to have hope for a more a level economic playing field across America. We all read the mainstream news media stories about the divide between the coastal regions and the Heartland. And many people don’t just read about it, they live it as well. Across the Heartland, we are seeing promising signs and a clear roadmap to bridge the economic and cultural disparities that divide our country economically and culturally and much can be learned from the best practices of these small towns.

Today, we share our next round of research, “Micropolitan Success Stories from the Heartland,” that outlines a roadmap consisting of seven key pillars that support an economic foundation for success.

Our research highlights five micropolitan areas, including Findlay, Ohio; Brookings, South Dakota; Oxford, Mississippi; Jasper, Indiana; and Ardmore, Oklahoma. You may read the research here.

According to my research, there are 551 micropolitan areas (comprised of populations of at least 10,000, but less than 50,000) nationwide. The featured micropolitan areas highlighted in my research have elements of these seven key attributes, including Universities and Research Institutions; Community Colleges and Workforce Development; Entrepreneurial Awareness, Support, and Access to Early-Stage Risk Capital; Diversified and Thoughtful Strategic Economic Development Planning; Manufacturing, Logistics/Supply Chain, and Foreign Direct Investment; Technology, Professional, Scientific and Technical Services; and Quality of Place.

Now, each community must examine their assets, understand their gaps, and confront their weaknesses head-on with an economic development strategy uniquely tailored for themselves.

Equally important, they must commit to executing their implementation plan. No place in America should feel their economic future is without hope.

Ross DeVol is a Fellow at The Walton Family Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at Ross DeVol.

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