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Research Shows Small Towns Across the Heartland Outline a Blueprint for Economic Success

May 9, 2018
Research Reveals Seven Key Attributes That Can Help Spur Economic Growth

May 9, 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 today, “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, South Dakota; Oxford, Mississippi; Jasper, Indiana; and Ardmore, Oklahoma. Find the research online here.

“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.”

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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. Learn more about DeVol here.

About the Walton Fellows Program
The Walton Fellows Program is term-limited, with up to one year in residence. Fellows are responsible for internal and external thought leadership and will conduct research and/or build/improve processes on behalf of the programs of the foundation. This program does not accept unsolicited applications.

About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. The children and grandchildren of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2016, the foundation awarded more than $454 million in grants in support of these initiatives. To learn more, visit waltonfamilyfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.