Heartland Forward Launches


First-Of-Its-Kind Institute Will Focus On Research And Policy Recommendations To Foster Economic Renewal In America’s Heartland

BENTONVILLE, AR – Heartland Forward, a first-of-its-kind “think and do” tank spearheaded by members of the Walton family and focused on advancing economic performance in the center of the United States, launches today. Heartland Forward will develop original policy research, convene leading voices—including through its flagship event the Heartland Summit—and advocate for policy solutions to increase economic growth across the Heartland region, which has faced a more uneven economic recovery than the coasts.

For too long, Heartland communities and economies have been an afterthought in the national policy discussion,” said Ross DeVol, who will head Heartland Forward as its first President and CEO. “The Heartland faces more economic challenges than the rest of the country, but it also holds immense potential. As the only ‘think and do’ tank dedicated specifically to economic renewal in this region, we look forward to serving as a resource for local leaders and identifying solutions to improve the region’s economic health.

Heartland Forward will take a holistic view to the region’s challenges and focus its research and efforts in the areas of regional competitiveness, innovation and entrepreneurship, building human capital, and addressing health risks and disparities. Heartland Forward will operate as an independent nonprofit organization.

DeVol launches Heartland Forward after serving as a fellow with the Walton Family Foundation. The foundation supported the launch of Heartland Forward and the inaugural Heartland Summit, held in 2018. DeVol’s work as a fellow focused on research on policies related to the economic vitality of Northwest Arkansas and the American Heartland. He researched ways to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem and develop human capital. The research conducted under his fellowship will transfer to Heartland Forward. DeVol is the former Chief Research Officer at the Milken Institute and was ranked among the “Superstars of Think Tank Scholars” by International Economy Magazine. Prior to his post at the Milken Institute, he served as Senior Vice President of IHS Global Insight Inc.

“Heartland Forward comes at exactly the right time,” DeVol stated. “The institute brings together people dedicated to the future of the Heartland, not only researching the drivers of economic growth, but also working to implement actionable policies that foster growth in a real way.”

Heartland Forward’s inaugural team includes two visiting fellows: economists Richard Florida and Joel Kotkin. Florida’s studies center on demography and urban development, and he currently serves as Professor of Business & Creativity at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Kotkin currently works as the Executive Director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism and as a fellow at Chapman University in Southern California. He is a recognized authority on global economic, political, and social trends, with a specific emphasis on urbanism, housing, and demography.

Heartland Forward uses the U.S. Census regions of East North Central, West North Central, East South Central, and West South Central to define the Heartland. These regions cover the 20 states in the middle of the country: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

In the coming months, Heartland Forward will publish original research on topics ranging from millennials in the Heartland to the impact of start-ups on Heartland economies.

As a part of the launch, Heartland Forward also unveiled its website and social media channels. Interested parties can sign up for the newsletter, and follow Heartland Forward on Twitter and Facebook for more information on the institute’s research and activities.

About Heartland Forward:

Heartland Forward’s mission is to improve economic performance in the center of the United States by advocating for fact-based solutions to foster job creation, knowledge-based and inclusive growth, and improved health outcomes. We conduct independent, data-driven research to facilitate action-oriented discussion and impactful policy recommendations.

For press inquiries: media@heartlandforward.org