What does Heartland Forward do to achieve its mission?


We are achieving our mission through independent, data-driven research; action-oriented discussion; and impactful policy recommendations.

The Institute conducts applied economic research to analyze and explain the factors that influence regional economic development nationwide, while focusing on how these factors impact the American Heartland—especially micropolitan areas.

Heartland Forward focuses on both transformative and traditional research:

Transformative research concentrates on factors that impact the American Heartland’s economy through innovation, such as research development and commercialization, human capital formation and labor force skills training, entrepreneurship awareness and capacity, access to early-stage risk capital, and issues around immigration, demographics, health status, and quality of place.

Traditional research focuses on traditional factors of economic activity, such as tax rates, wage levels, energy costs, regulatory structure, and other costs of doing business. In addition, it will explore how international trade, foreign direct investment, and business climate are influencing economic activity in the American Heartland.

Importantly, we are both a “think tank” and a “do tank,” meaning we want to see our research in action. That’s why Heartland Forward has five key goals for our research:

Identify emerging issues: Through our research efforts and the insights we gain, we identify new, timely issues that are affecting the Heartland’s economy and communities.

Serve as a resource: We produce indices and rankings that regularly report on various economic and development factors in locales across the Heartland, presenting the data in accessible formats for media, government officials, researchers, and other interested parties.

Develop solutions and inform policy: We build on our senior staff’s experience, strong partnerships, robust data, and expertise in economic theory to develop innovative, implementable economic and policy solutions that provide stakeholders with the tools to create high-quality jobs and foster industry expansion in the Heartland.

Build community: We provide our peers and supporters with research content relative to their organizations or communities, facilitate convenings (including Heartland Summit), and implement potential fundraising opportunities to allow us to continue working toward our mission.

Partner for greater impact: We evaluate potential collaborations with partners and devote our resources and attention to critical questions where we can have the biggest impact.