#636 – The New American Heartland

Posted on | The Agurban

The New American Heartland

We typically focus on rural or “agurban” issues, but a recent report from the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, The New American Heartland: Renewing the Middle Class by Revitalizing Middle America, caught our eye. The report set out to identify possible ways that the United States can foster the kind of growth that benefits and expands the middle class. It’s a very long report full of maps, graphs, and pie charts. Here are some points we found most interesting:

  • …the New American Heartland includes not only the Midwest and Upper Plains, but portions of all the Gulf States — Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida — and the non-coastal southern states of Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas.
  • …manufacturing never employed most American workers. Service and manufacturing employment rose in parallel as agricultural employment declined, until manufacturing employment peaked in the 1950s at 30 percent of the workforce and began its gradual decline. By 2010 nearly 80 percent of Americans worked in the service sector
  • The multiplier effect measures how much a dollar of final demand for each industry generates in terms of additional output. The multipliers in the retail sector (64 cents), wholesale trade (60 cents), and FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate, 58 cents) are low. The professional and business services sector, while it contains many high-paying jobs, delivers just 66 cents of impact per dollar of output. In contrast, manufacturing has the largest multiplier of any economic sector. A dollar’s worth of manufactured goods sales generates $1.40 in output from other sectors of the economy.
  • Almost four out of ten of all ears of corn (maize) grown on earth originate in the watershed of the Mississippi River, which is also the source of most US grain, cotton, sorghum, soy, livestock and poultry. Ninety-two percent of US agricultural exports, and 78 percent of global feed, grain, and soybean exports are from the Mississippi Basin. Sixty percent of all US grain exports travel via the Mississippi through the Heartland Port of New Orleans and the Port of South Louisiana to foreign markets.
  • The New American Heartland contains the greatest concentration of shale gas and tight oil reserves in the continental United States, and, unlike coastal states such as California and New York, the Heartland has embraced the opportunities for American-produced energy. Despite the recent decline in energy prices, demand is likely to rise as China and other developing countries increase automobile use and seek to replace coal with cleaner natural gas.

The final paragraph of the report states:  The road to America’s future runs through middle America. The renewal of American growth and prosperity can succeed only with the renewal of the New American Heartland.

To see the full report, visit here.


You may recall that our good friend Maury Forman retired from the State of Washington’s Department of Economic Development last fall. Because economic development and entrepreneurship has a grip on Maury’s heart, he has started a new website, mauryforum.com,  to continue to share information relevant to rural and urban communities. He’s just getting the site up and going, so check back often. Congratulations, Maury!