Joel Kotkin: Where the Opportunity Lies for the Great Lakes Region

November 22, 2011

At the beginning of the month, I spoke at the same conference in Indiana as Joel Kotkin, an internationally recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends and author of The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050.

While my discussion focused on how economic development organizations could influence perceptionsabout a place in a 3.0 world, Joel’s topic was on his predictions for U.S. growth opportunities.

For those who know and follow Joel, it’s no surprise that he sees two regions really turning around in today’s economy: the Gulf Coast and the Great Plains.

The main question, however, he wanted to address during his presentation in Indiana was whether or not the Great Lakes region could soon be listed among those ranks.

According to Joel, the opportunity for the Great Lakes region to be successful lies in building its strategy around its strengths:

  1. Embracing a back-to-basics economy, focusing on the resurgence of manufacturing, agriculture and energy: The region has a concentration of skilled workforce, the “backbone of the American economy,” which will only help it as the nation’s economy rebounds. Joel recommended that EDOs in the region focus on workforce training and continue to share the importance of middle skill jobs to our nation’s economy.
  2. Capitalizing on the region’s affordability: Joel’s research shows that the suburbs have seen 91 percent growth in recent years. People are moving to smaller cities because, with cable TV and the Internet, they still have access to a global economy.
  3. Focusing on its family-friendly lifestyle: According to a 2007 Associated Press survey, 76 percent of millennials (ages 13-24) cited their relationship with their family as their biggest source of happiness, while 85 percent planned to get married and 77 percent probably or definitely wanted children. Per Joel, a place that has the quality of life that appeals to this mindset may be more successful than dense urban areas in attracting these up-and-coming workers.

What strengths does your region have? How have you built your strategy around those?

Susan Brake

Written by Susan Brake

Susan Brake is Vice President at DCI overseeing the digital media strategy for all the firm’s economic development clients. Since joining the company, she has effectively leveraged traditional and social media tactics to reach target audiences for her clients large and small.

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