Spend Federal Boon Wisely, and Flyover Country Can Win


The mad dash for states, cities and other local units of government to spend the Biden-administration largess has begun. Once the floodgates are opened in a few weeks and the trillions of dollars in “Covid relief,” infrastructure “investment” and other sources of new federal bounty actually start flowing to jurisdictions across the country, America will see a government-spending spree the likes of which this nation has never experienced – not even in the midst of the Great Depression.

All of which presents a huge new opportunity for Flyover Country. If our states -- which mostly have been run responsibly over the decades, compared with coastal counterparts – can free themselves to spend and invest the federal windfall as their leaders want, our region could create some huge advantages in economic development that will further position us favorably for the future.

As the feds get ready to actually sign checks for states, cities, counties and education departments from the backlog of gigantic disbursements that has been ordered up by President Biden, gobsmacked local officials are in a daze about what they will do with a cornucopia of funds that most of them never actually asked for or expected. These are brainstorming sessions they never thought they’d be having, about how to spend literal gifts from Washington, D.C., in amounts of millions and billions of dollars the likes of which they’d never contemplated.

So, ideas on what to do with it are appearing feverishly. Chicago is going to get nearly $2 billion in federal money, giving Mayor Lori Lightfoot a chance to address structural issue as well as help those “hurting all over the city,” she says. Port Huron, Michigan, officials have talked about refunding all 2020 property taxes with the city’s $19-million windfall.

And in Westchester County, New York, a monied suburb of New York City, the $187-million gift will go toward nipping and tucking its economic platform via everything from expanding broadband capabilities for remote work to aiding small businesses.

Now is the time for visionary government, business and non-profit leaders in Flyover Country to understand and grasp a generational, perhaps historically unique, opportunity to buttress their states, counties and cities in economic-development initiatives that will leapfrog them to the front of the pack in the years ahead.

This could involve not only fixing but also significantly enhancing crucial aspects of infrastructure such as roads, sewers, ports and bridges; reimagining high-school education and training programs; buttressing community colleges for the new economy; ensuring the ubiquity of broadband in remote towns and other locations; leveraging legacy industries to create technology ecosystems that fit the strengths and character of each locality -- and on and on.

Read the rest of this piece at Flyover Coalition.

Dale Buss is founder and executive director of The Flyover Coalition, a not-for-profit organization aimed at helping revitalize and promote the economy, companies and people of the region between the Appalachians and Rockies, the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes. He is a long-time author, journalist, and magazine and newspaper editor, and contributor to Chief Executive, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and many other publications. Buss is a Wisconsin native who lives in Michigan and has also lived in Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida.