Report: Rural Midwest Must Reinvent Itself to Compete in Global Economy

Mar 18, 2010, 11:21 ET from The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

CHICAGO, March 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Chicago Council on Global Affairs released a report today that says the rural Midwest must "move past silos and smokestacks" to reinvent itself and compete in the global economy. The report calls on towns and counties, competing with each other for industry and manufacturing jobs and investments, to join forces to spur innovation and entrepreneurship.

The report was released as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Directors of the twelve Midwestern states -- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin -- meet in Chicago today  to discuss how to allocate nearly $722,000,000 in funding that the assembled states have in lending authority.  The purpose of the programs is to save and create jobs as well as develop projects that create and save energy.    

According to the report, regional action across traditional political boundaries, targeted investment in public goods such as transportation and telecommunications, active efforts to spur innovation, and a focus on regional competitive advantages will stimulate the rural economy. The report also recognizes that rural areas have highly unique contributions to make in critical new areas of the economy such as green growth and renewable energy.

The industry the region has relied on for its livelihood for decades is disappearing and the jobs and educated young people with it, argues Dr. Mark Drabenstott, founding director of the Rural Policy Research Institute Center for Regional Competitiveness and author of the report, "Past Silos and Smokestacks: Transforming the Rural Economy in the Midwest."  

For more than a half century, the rural Midwest has followed one basic path to economic development: recruit a factory to the edge of town, and give away the farm to get it. According to Drabenstott's report, in the twelve Midwestern states, nearly 80 percent of development budgets goes to recruitment incentives.

"The Midwest can no longer base its twenty-first century future on this twentieth-century playbook," says the report.  

In order to encourage new industry and job creation, proposes Drabenstott, the rural Midwest needs a bold new development strategy to transform its economy. It needs to "partner regionally to compete globally."

Drabenstott, who also is chairman of the Territorial Development Policy Committee for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, presents original data and recommendations in the report to encourage Midwest leaders to change the Midwest framework for rural development. He calls upon federal representatives, state governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to take the steps necessary to provide leadership and action for regional collaboration.

The Chicago Council has published this report, with the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Agency, as part of its Heartland Papers series under its Global Midwest Initiative, a regional effort to promote interstate dialogue between government, business, and civic leaders about how best to respond to the effects of globalizations. Heartland Papers are a monograph series that address issues and provide policy recommendations to improve regional success.  

For more information and to download the full reports, please visit

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, founded in 1922, is a prominent, independent and nonpartisan organization committed to influencing the discourse on global issues through contributions to opinion and policy formation, leadership dialogue, and public learning. 

SOURCE The Chicago Council on Global Affairs