The rural Midwest must "move past silos and smokestacks" to reinvent itself and compete in the global economy, according to a report released by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The report calls on towns and counties, competing with each other for industry and manufacturing jobs and investments, to join forces to spur innovation and entrepreneurship.

According to the report, regional action across traditional political boundaries, targeted investment in public goods such as transportation and telecommunications, active efforts to spur innovation, and a focus on regional competitive advantages will stimulate the rural economy. The report also recognizes that rural areas have highly unique contributions to make in critical new areas of the economy such as green growth and renewable energy.

The industry the region has relied on for its livelihood for decades is disappearing and the jobs and educated young people with it, argues Mark Drabenstott, founding director of the Rural Policy Research Institute Center for Regional Competitiveness and author of the report, "Past Silos and Smokestacks: Transforming the Rural Economy in the Midwest."

For more than a half century, the rural Midwest has followed one basic path to economic development: recruit a factory to the edge of town, and give away the farm to get it. According to Drabenstott's report, in the 12 Midwestern states, nearly 80% of development budgets goes to recruitment incentives.

"The Midwest can no longer base its 21st century future on this 20th century playbook," says the report.

In order to encourage new industry and job creation, proposes Drabenstott, the rural Midwest needs a bold new development strategy to transform its economy. It needs to "partner regionally to compete globally."

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-- Chicago Council on Global Affairs release