Heartland

Redefining 'Niners': Football on The Great Plains

JACE Football.jpeg

At 0.5 people per square mile, Harding County, South Dakota is one of the least populated places in the nation. The county’s only high school, located in Buffalo, is small by even small-town standards, with 85 students in grades 9-12. However, few schools can match its gridiron success. Nicknamed after the primary industry in the region, “The Ranchers” football team has experienced only one losing season in its 44-year history.

Harding County’s teenage boys suit up every Friday night and dominate 9-man football.

Nine-man football is a small-town sport. Unique to three upper Great Plains states (South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota), it was designed  read more »

Political Decisions Matter in State Economic Performance

california-capital-2.jpg

California has pending legislation, AB 2529, to require an economic impact analysis of proposed new regulation. Its opponents correctly point out that AB 2529 will delay and increase the cost of new regulation. There will be lawsuits and arguments over the proper methodology and over assumptions. It is not easy to complete a thorough and unbiased economic impact analysis.

Should California incur the costs and delays of economic impact studies?  read more »

Iowa's Agro-Metro Future

iowa-elevator.jpg

When Brent Richardson, a field rep for Cadillac, was told he'd been transferred to Des Moines, he assumed he'd be spending the next year in a small town environment. Des Moines turned out to have much more bustle than he expected. The city had a robust insurance sector among its diverse industries. And the lifestyle was very similar to what he was able to live in big city suburbs like Naperville, Illinois or Bellingham, Massachusetts. Steeped in a decade of Farm Aid concerts, he also expected the surrounding rural areas to be populated with hardscrabble homesteaders struggling to hang on. Instead, he discovered that farming was big business – and, these days in particular, reasonably profitable. And some of those Iowa farmers turned out to be Cadillac buyers.  read more »

Sarah Palin: The GOP's Poison Pearl

palin.jpg

Sarah Palin has emerged as the right's sweetheart, a cross between a pin-up girl and Joan of Arc. For some activists, like the American Thinker's Lloyd Marcus, she's "my awesome conservative sister" who the mainstream media wants to "destroy at any cost."

On a more serious note, leading right-wing pundit Roger Simon argues Palin's is now the biggest name in Republicandom, which he admits is not too great an accomplishment. Armed with "something more than intellect," he praises her unique ability to "connect with the base." He also believes, citing some polls for 2012, that she could run a close race against President Obama.  read more »

Urban Legends: Why Suburbs, Not Dense Cities, are the Future

suburb1.jpg

The human world is fast becoming an urban world -- and according to many, the faster that happens and the bigger the cities get, the better off we all will be. The old suburban model, with families enjoying their own space in detached houses, is increasingly behind us; we're heading toward heavier reliance on public transit, greater density, and far less personal space.  read more »

Guys Gone Wild: Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Begins

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.JPG

Yesterday marked the opening of the outrageous phenomenon known as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, a week-long, $987 million party for about 500,000 people. Every year in early August my sleepy hometown, Sturgis, population 6,500, hosts a half million biking enthusiasts who swarm here for a combination carnival, racing event, party, music festival, and shopping mall.  read more »

Resort Towns Becoming Neo-Company Towns

lake-town.jpg

Over the past few years resort communities - communities ideal for a ski vacation, a beach week, a hiking excursion or the like - have been hard hit by the downturn in real estate.

The key question is how these communities can be revived. If the issues involved are successfully addressed head-on, these small towns are able to provide significant amounts of affordable housing, viable and productive public transportation networks, and public functions such as parks, schools, police, and fire, despite limited financial and physical resources.  read more »

Chickens from Wal-Mart?

appalachia-town.jpg

As I arrived for a visit, my 90 year old father was perusing ads from his favorite big box store for chicken parts. Seizing the moment that all children savor, I sought to impress him with my declaration: "I buy my chicken parts – albeit at higher prices – at the natural foods store; you know daddy, where the chickens ate naturally off the barn yard floor like they did when you were a boy"? Not missing a beat and dashing my hope for an "at a boy," he retorted: "I saw what those chickens ate off the barnyard floor and I'll buy my chickens at Walmart(s)!"  read more »

Sponge Cities on the Great Plains

Debora-and-Pixie.jpg

“Sponge cities” is an apt metaphor to describe urban communities in rural states like North Dakota which grow soaking up the residents of surrounding small towns, farms and ranches. North Dakota’s four largest cities, Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks and Minot, are growing in large part due to the young adults who for decades gone elsewhere to other regions. In the process, rural North Dakota is facing a protracted population crisis as significant numbers of its small communities are on a slow slide to extinction. This migration pattern is not new, nor is it unique to North Dakota.  read more »

Why the Great Plains are Great Once Again

donaldson.jpg

On a drizzly, warm June night, the bars, galleries, and restaurants along Broadway are packed with young revelers. Traffic moves slowly, as drivers look for parking. The bar at the Donaldson, a boutique hotel, is so packed with stylish patrons that I can’t get a drink. My friend, a local, and I head over to Monte’s, a trendy Italian place down the street. We watch a group of attractive 30-something blondes share a table and gossip. They look like the cast of the latest Housewives series.  read more »