Heartland

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

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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“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

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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 »

The G-20's New Balance of Power: The Productive Economy Still Matters

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As world leaders gather in Canada this weekend, the nations with the most influence won't be the high-tech mavens. Joel Kotkin on why traditional industries still matter in the post-information age.

Are we entering the post-information age?

For much of the last quarter century, conventional wisdom from some of the best minds of our times, like Daniel Bell, Alvin Toffler and Taichi Sakaiya—in both East and West—predicted that power would shift to those countries that dominate the so-called information age. At the time, this was the right call, but it may increasingly be, if you will, old news. Although there’s no question that iPhones and 3-D movies are nifty—and hedge funds generators of massive wealth for investors and operators—we now may actually be entering what might be called the post-information age.  read more »

The Declining Human Footprint

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There are few more bankrupt arguments against suburbanization than the claim that it consumes too much agricultural land. The data is so compelling that even the United States Department of Agriculture says that "our Nation's ability to produce food and fiber is not threatened" by urbanization. There is no doubt that agricultural production takes up less of the country's land than it did before. But urban “sprawl” is not the primary cause. The real reason lies in the growing productivity of American farms.

Since 1950, an area the size of Texas plus Oklahoma (or an area almost as large as France plus Great Britain) has been taken out of agricultural production in the United States, not including any agricultural land taken by new urbanization (Note 1). That is enough land to house all of the world's urban population at the urban density level of the United Kingdom.  read more »

Energy's Other Side

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The BP oil spill disaster likely spells the slowing down, or even curtailing, of offshore oil drilling for the foreseeable future. You can take California, Florida and much of the east coast off the energy-drilling map for years, perhaps decades.

But if the oil, gas and coal industries are widely detested on the coasts, people in Bismarck, N.D., have little incentive to join an anti-energy jihad. Like other interior energy centers, people in this small Missouri river city of over 100,000 see their rising oil-, gas- and coal-based economy as the key to a far more lucrative future.  read more »

It is Time to Plant

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It is springtime in Kentucky – think foals and mares in the pristine meticulously fenced pastures. But, in another part of the state – the Appalachia region of eastern Kentucky – it is time to plant on those rocky hillsides. As my 90 year old father puts it, you plant your corn when tree buds are the size of squirrel ears. I confess to not having given a thought to whether squirrels even have ears or not ... but my father knows. He was born and raised in a part of the world where they know things like that, typical of the mostly Scots-Irish who settled there.  read more »