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Research Shows Small Towns Outline Blueprint for Economic Success
South Dakota Ag Connection - 05/11/2018

As communities and the country as a whole grapple with the economic and cultural divide between the coastal regions and the Heartland, Ross DeVol, a fellow at the Walton Family Foundation, shared new research, "Micropolitan Success Stories from the Heartland," which outlines a blueprint of success in building growing local economies that can bridge that divide.

DeVol's research highlights five micropolitan areas, including Findlay, Ohio; Brookings, S.D.; Oxford, Miss.; Jasper, Ind.; and Ardmore, Okla.

"Across the Heartland, we see promising signs and a clear roadmap to bridge the disparities that divide our country and much can be learned from the best practices of these small towns," DeVol said.

"Each community must examine their assets, understand their gaps, and confront their weaknesses head-on with an economic development strategy uniquely tailored for themselves," DeVol explained. "Equally important, they must commit to executing their implementation plan. No place in America should feel their economic future is without hope."

According to DeVol's 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 DeVol's research have elements of these seven key attributes contributing to their strong economic growth, 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.

DeVol's research is part of a one-year tenure at the foundation, where he will assess opportunities for regional innovation ecosystems that foster job creation, wage gains and economic growth for Middle America residents. He will also work with universities and colleges, the business community and philanthropy to analyze resources that support the startup community and identify workforce and talent gaps.

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