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Most Dynamic Metropolitans 2020

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Heartland by the Numbers

Click the dots to see what we’ve said about America’s small towns (micros) and cities (metros)

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Heartland Summit

The mission of the Heartland Summit is to showcase the exciting innovation happening between the coasts, spark frank conversations about the challenges the region is facing, and build networks to sustain economic growth and power problem solving across the country.

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Heartland Forward Unemployment Insurance Monitor

Dave Shideler and Jonas Crews
The monitor tracks weekly unemployment insurance data to understand how economies across different states are responding to the COVID-19 induced recession.

3 Minute Read

Federal Holidays Lead to Decline in Initial Claims

Dave Shideler and Jonas Crews
Seasonally adjusted and unadjusted initial claims both fell for the week ending December 26

3 Minute Read

New study shows how city economies can bounce back post-pandemic

Cities are really going to have to double down on finding reasons to attract people to their core," says Mark Warner about how cities can draw young talent. Read the Basil John news article on our Metros report, where he hears from Ross DeVol and Sen. Warner

Watch 1 Minute Video

Top 30 most dynamic cities; Arkansas ranks 3rd among medium metros

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — A Bentonville-based company looked at which metropolitan areas fared the best economically during the pandemic.
Heartland Forward released its “Most Dynamic Metropolitans Report” ranking America’s top 30 cities.

2 Minute Read

Greeley repeats as eighth most dynamic metropolitan in the U.S., according to study

For the second consecutive year, Greeley ranks eighth out of 375 metropolitans in the United States, according to a study by Heartland Forward. This is the second year Heartland Forward has released these rankings and the second time Greeley has been placed eighth.

2 Minute Read

HILL TAX BRIEFING: House to Halt Votes Until Relief Deal Reached

Sony Kassam
Government-backed, forgivable loans facilitated by the Paycheck Protection Program were “proportionally distributed” across affluent, distressed, and middle-income communities, according to ananalysis from the Economic Innovation Group. A full 31% of Paycheck Protection Program loans went to prosperous areas, compared to the 11.6% that went to the poorest ones, and similar percentages of the total dollar amounts flowed to those categories, the think tank found, using recently-released data on loan recipients. Those proportions don’t differ much from the respective percentages of business establishments located in wealthy and distressed areas, according to the analysis. Just 12.7% of establishments are in distressed areas, for instance, and 28.8% are located in prosperous ones.
The group’s report comes after much criticism of the program for leaving out minority business owners. An Augustreportfrom the group Heartland Forward found that across the Midwest, Black-owned businesses received fewer loans than their share of those states’ employer firms.

Will Coronavirus Be the Death of Cities? Not So Fast

Senior Fellow Richard Florida

Working with my colleagues at Heartland Forward, a think tank focused on the transformation of America’s heartland region, we developed such a strategy for a more inclusive, equitable and resilient recovery for the Bentonville-Fayetteville Corridor of Northwest Arkansas.

5 Minute Read

Anxiety is a way of life during Covid-19

Julie Trivitt
This year will live vividly in our collective memories for decades to come

4 Minute Read

Mass Exodus From The Coasts To The New Heartland Is Well Underway

A report from Heartland Forward compiled research and anecdotal evidence from months prior to COVID-19. Released in March 2020, the report puts a spotlight on a trend of millennials finding renewed hope and a viable pathway to achieving their dreams in the New Heartland.

4 Minute Read

Ross speaks to NPR about the Heartland Economy

Ross DeVol, President and CEO of Heartland Forward, a new ‘think and do’ think tank devoted to improving economic performance in the middle of the country, talks about how former factory towns and rural areas can revitalize their economies.

28 Minute Podcast

America’s heartland, including Nashville, shows the way for post-COVID recovery | Opinion

Joel Kotkin, Richard Florida, and Ross DeVol Guest Columnists
Research in Northwest Arkansas shows investment in heartland cities yields economic success, attracts talent and prepares for post-pandemic life.

4 Minute

What Happens After the Election

From the Heartland Forward project, a report on an economic recovery strategy for Northwest Arkansas. Why this part of the country?

10 Minute Read

The Wall Street Journal Why some tech workers leaving Silicon Valley are changing jobs

By Katherine Bindley
If a startup can go to a venture-capital firm and say it recruited multiple engineers from top-tier Silicon Valley companies, it is more likely to get funding, said economist Ross DeVol, who runs Heartland Forward, a nonprofit focused on economic renewal.

4 Minute Read

As tech talent relocates out of the Bay Area, they are also rethinking what kinds of opportunities to consider

Ross Devol - "Even though the numbers may not be substantial -- and I think they will be -- but just a small percentage of this entrepreneurial talent can make a huge difference,"

4 Minute Read

Fireside chat with Ross DeVol and Jon Maynard - Accelerate 2020 conference

Heartland Forward CEO and President, Ross DeVol, will discuss how urban and regional economic development is undergoing a sea of change. Guiding the discussion will be Jon Maynard, of the Oxford-Lafayette EDF, which is touted in the report as a model micropolitan in the South.

Watch Video Here

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How America’s Communities Can Recover from COVID-19

By Richard Florida, Joel Kotkin, and Ross DeVol
Lost in the politically charged debate over lockdowns versus reopening is the importance of developing robust strategies to guide longer-run economic recovery.

Quick Read

POTUS (SIRIUS XM): What Is Heartland Forward: Interview With Heartland Forward CEO

What Happens After the Election

James Fallows
From the Heartland Forward project, a report on an economic recovery strategy for Northwest Arkansas.

10 Minute Read

Seven-point plan charts NWA Economic Recovery from COVID-19

Ross DeVol, President and CEO of Heartland Forward said: The pandemic is accelerating trends that could favor Heartland communities like Northwest Arkansas.

2 Minute Read

Economic think tank pitches NW's recovery

Ross DeVol
Region can excel with plan, report says

3 Minute Read


To generate such an economic recovery strategy, Heartland Forward (HF) has undertaken an extensive and detailed analysis of the NWA region’s strengths, challenges and opportunities.

2 Minute Read

Ozarks at Large

On today's show, we hear about a new report from Heartland Forward that lays out a strategy for economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic for the Northwest Arkansas region.

Listen to the show here

Heartland Women Take Care

By Julie Trivitt
Nationwide data indicates the economic effects of the pandemic have been disproportionately harmful to women’s careers.

4 Minute Read

High jobless rates in Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania point to problem for Trump

“You can’t separate the economy’s performance from the performance of keeping COVID-19 infection rates and death rates down. Clearly, they’re related,” said Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward.

4 Minute Read

3 Markets Seeing More Buyers During COVID-19

Ross DeVol, president of Heartland Forward, a think tank in Arkansas, described the situation in Idaho Falls and other small cities like it as “to some extent, they got lucky because of their underlying industry structure.”

2 Minute Read

The Heartland’s Revival

A recent study from Heartland For­ward demonstrates, outside of Florida and the southeast coast, the cities growing fastest have been in the Heartland—Dallas–Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, Nashville, Columbus, Indianapolis, and Des Moines.

6 Minute Read

Three Small Cities That Are Thriving Despite the Pandemic

“The truth is that to some extent they got lucky because of their underlying industry structure,” says Ross DeVol, president of Heartland Forward, a think tank in Bentonville, Ark., focused on improving the economy in the center of the country.

4 Minute Read

The PPP Failed Minority-Led Businesses. 3 Ideas for What Could Work Instead

Brit Morse
The results are even less positive in the South and Midwest. Black- and Latinx-owned businesses represent about one-fifth of all companies in Alabama, but received just 7 percent of PPP loans, according to a new report from Heartland Forward, a Bentonville, Arkansas-based nonprofit focused on improving economic performance in the Midwest.

2 Minute Read

Exclusive: How the high-tech economy is expanding

"Knowledge-intensive young firms have a higher probability of achieving middle-market status where they can generate rapid job gains for their communities," per Heartland Forward.

2 Minute Read

Heartland Forward CEO discusses Does Geography Determine Destiny with TB&P Paul Gatling

Declining economic mobility for low-income households is a well-documented phenomenon with roots in overall rising inequality. But with this report, we take the conversation a step further, focusing on the Heartland region and exploring the factors behind economic opportunity.

Listen Here

The key to recovery

Recent research from think tank Heartland Forward draws a clear link between strong entrepreneurial ecosystems and economic success. Cities with a higher share of employment at young firms, and particularly where employees at those young firms have a bachelor’s degree or higher, saw notably faster employment growth over the past decade.

2 Minute Read

The Economist - The urban prairie

A report in May by Heartland Forward, a think-tank of the Walton family (who own Walmart), laments that old, big companies do well in the region, but young firms rarely flourish. That is especially true in places that fail to encourage research and innovation.

10 Minute Read

The Key to Recovery

Page 4 - Recent research from think tank Heartland Forward draws a clear link between strong entrepreneurial ecosystems and economic success.

3 Minute Read

Arizonans set record for expanded jobless benefit claims as program's expiration looms

That new claims for Arizona jobless benefits have mostly leveled out in recent weeks might indicate Arizona's tourism sector hasn't been hit as hard as those of many other states, said David Shideler, chief research officer at Heartland Forward, which tracks economic activity in middle America.

5 Minute Read

Heartland Forward Senior Fellows, Florida and Kotkin share their expertise with WSJ

Winning Streak of Big Cities Fades With 2020 Crises
Coronavirus, anger over policing and strained budgets pack triple punch in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Boston, but don’t count cities out, urban experts say

8 Minute Read

Young firms can accelerate economic growth post COVID-19

Young firms born out of entrepreneurship today are our country's large employers tomorrow. Moreover, new Heartland Forward analysis draws a clear link between strong entrepreneurial ecosystems and economic success.

5 Minute Read

Two Midwestern cities. Two local billionaires (Koch and Buffett). Which one can boost prosperity?

Millennials are also looking for places that have invested in public infrastructure like parks, and recreational and cultural activities. And they’re interested in jobs with a future.

Omaha is a rising star in the race for a new generation of entrepreneurs, according to Ross DeVol, who runs Heartland Forward, an institute focused on economic renewal in the Midwest.

Read Article Here

Webinar: Venture Capital Trends, Recent Data, and What it Means for Colorado's Startups How Entrepreneurs can Power Economic Recovery

On behalf of Innosphere Ventures and Heartland Forward, you are invited to join us for a webinar as we discuss two new reports on venture capital, dig into the data behind recent VC trends, and talk about how startups and entrepreneurs can power the economic recovery.

Register Here

Entrepreneurs are key to Tennessee's economic recovery | Opinion

Ross DeVol, Guest columnist
Recent research from think tank Heartland Forward found that cities with strong entrepreneurial ecosystems see notably faster employment growth.

4 Minute Read

Twenty Top Entrepreneurial Ecosystems Across America

Heartland Forward, identified 20 top entrepreneurial ecosystems across America based on the share of employment by small firms, and the number of college-educated employees in those firms.

3 Minute Read

A 10-Point Plan to Reopening with Richard Florida

Richard Florida, Heartland Forward Senior Fellow, University of Toronto Professor, and NYU Fellow, discusses his co-authored 10-point plan on how cities can prepare for the future.

20 Minute Video


Panelist Ross DeVol and others provide insight into the COVID-19 Heartland aftermath.

Watch Webinar

In a conversation with Heartland Summit Executive Director, Angie Cooper