The Obama Administration announced yesterday awards totaling $38.8 million for 29 economic and workforce development projects across seven states – Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia – to assist communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal industry.

CSG Midwest
A fiber optic connection is considered the “gold standard” for quality, high-speed Internet access, and in the Midwest, it’s in pretty short supply.
Except in North Dakota.
In the region’s most sparsely populated state, 60 percent of the households, including those on farms in far-flung areas, have fiber. (That compares to 24 percent in the Midwest, where most of the existing fiber networks serve urban areas.) In all, North Dakota ranks fifth in the nation in fiber access.This is amazing enough, considering many of the obstacles typically cited as responsible for the dearth of high-speed technologies in rural parts of the Midwest — for example, the high costs of serving low-density areas.
But the story of North Dakota’s prominence in fiber access is also a testament to entrepreneurship in the nation’s heartland, and perhaps a model for the rest of the Midwest.

A recent report released by the Economic Innovation Group paints a lopsided picture of how the United States has recovered from the Great Recession of 2007-08.  According to the study, job growth and new business formation in the post-recessionary period has been heavily concentrated in roughly 70 counties and almost exclusively clustered in large metropolitan regions. Twenty counties, which account for less than one percent of roughly 3,100 counties in the U.S., were home to half of new business startups between 2010 and 2014. Likewise, half of the new jobs created in the same time period were located in only 73 counties.

CSG Midwest
Ask Minnesota Sen. Matt Schmit what his rural communities in Greater Minnesota need to prosper, and it doesn’t take long before the discussion turns to the importance of having high-speed Internet. “A good share of our rural homes and busi­nesses still lack access to Minnesota’s very modest speed goals,” he says.
Schmit is not the only state lawmaker concerned about this lack of connectivity. Six years ago, the Legislature passed a bill calling for all Minnesotans to have access to those “modest speed goals” (10 megabits per second download and 5 Mbps upload) by 2015. As of last year, however, only 78 percent of households met that standard.

Rural communities in the South continue to face serious challenges in getting highly educated students to return home after college graduation. Research indicates that education may be a cause and effect for this rural “brain drain” phenomenon, and also the key to reversing the trend. Studies have shown that efforts to improve rural education contribute to rapid economic development in those areas, while a more educated community can serve as a catalyst for business expansion and increased civic engagement. This complimentary webinar, presented by CSG South/SLC, highlights the impact of education on rural development and examines initiatives in rural communities to entice educated former residents to return and invest in their hometowns.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “the reports of Rural America’s death are greatly exaggerated.” In fact, at least four major trends are helping improve the future of rural America: broadband, telemedicine, job training and new methods to attract young people to farming all offer hope.

CSG Midwest
In the not-so-distant past, “non-existent” would have been an apt term to describe the Midwest’s farm winery and craft beer industries. As recently as the year 2000, only 300 acres were in grape production.

But today, ethanol isn’t the only alcohol being produced in this region. There has been big growth in the beer and wine industry, a trend that is allowing for more diversity in farm production and helping expand local and statewide agri-tourism.

The winery and craft beer industries are moving out of the hobby stage and making an estimated $10 billion contribution to the economies of Midwestern states. More than 12,000 acres of grapes and 600 craft brewers now call the Midwest home. This growth has been fueled not only by the development of winter-hardy varieties of grapes, but also by more-supportive government policies.
CSG Midwest logo
With its cluster of farming, industry leaders such as DuPont Pioneer and John Deere, and a large land-grant university, central Iowa is already a hub of economic activity centered on agriculture and bioscience. But state, local, business and university leaders believe the region still has much untapped potential.

Their response: Join together on a new Cultivation Corridor initiative, which creates new partnerships among regional leaders in economic development, education and bioscience and aims to market central Iowa as the home of“science that feeds the world.”

If successful, the initiative will also help grow the entire Iowa economy by drawing new investments to the state and attracting and retaining talent and business.

MEMPHIS, Tenn.—There’s a rich history of entrepreneurs in Tennessee. From FedEx founder Fred Smith to hospital management company HCA, entrepreneurs have thrived in the Volunteer State.
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Stateline Midwest ~ June 2012

Across the Midwest there is expected to be significant turnover this year in state legislatures. And particularly after another round of redistricting, agriculture’s voice in the legislature is at risk of being drowned out as more districts become urban or suburban, a shift that has been occurring for decades.

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