Message to Midwest: Change or die

Today’s article at Next American City sets its sights on the Midwest:

Richard Longworth (a senior writer for the Chicago Tribune) wants you to know two things: First, globalization is happening and it will continue to change the world. Second, if you live in the Midwest, you’d better be very afraid about your region’s chances of competing in an increasingly “flat” world.

Contrary to the hoo-ha churned out by the countless chambers of commerce that dot the Midwest, not all is well in Mayberry. In a passionately argued and well-researched new book, Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalization, Richard Longworth takes us through a Midwest that is facing rapid change, as rural economies strain under the increasingly automated and corporate nature of modern agriculture, and as old industrial cities from Canton to Cleveland, Muncie to Milwaukee, struggle to find a new economic niche in a state of permanent deindustrialization.

The article takes us from the lows of Detroit to the highs of Chicago, and then offers a few suggestions:

Longworth offers a few policy suggestions, such as investment in biotech and biofuels, which would leverage the Midwest’s natural strength in food production into becoming a leader in future technologies. He also argues for a regional approach to development, a Midwest conversation on who we are as a region and what we should aim to become.

Read the whole article here. Read a Chicago Tribune review of Longworth’s book here.

— photo of a distressed portion of Detroit by Luca & Vita on Flickr