Great Plains Opportunities


Editorial Staff


Omaha World-Herald

Kotkin, a respected scholar of urban policy and economic development, has a new book out that points to the Great Plains region as an area of particular promise for growth in coming decades.

He writes: “The Heartland, with the preponderance of the nation’s land and natural resources, arguably represents the great opportunity region for 21st-century America.”

The Plains region undeniably has many challenges, of course. But Kotkin is right that there will be important opportunities, too, especially as the cost of living becomes so expensive and conditions more crowded in some other parts of the country.

The Plains region, he notes in his book, “offers millions the chance to enjoy more spacious, less congested and more healthful lives than can be found or easily afforded in the largest cities. The Heartland is one of America’s critical assets as it prepares to accommodate the next hundred million.”

In his chapter on the Plains region, Kotkin begins by pointing to the central Nebraska city of Aurora.

Aurora, he writes, demonstrates impressive civic vision and “offers a preview of how a significant number of Americans may live in the coming dec- ades.” Aurora shows how Great Plains communities “offer lower costs for both living and doing business.”

We’ve noted before here that Aurora, with more than 4,000 residents, has impressive facilities a library, community center and senior center that were made possible in large part by the community’s local foundations.

Aurora opened a technology center in 1997 with local funds and in 2006 received a rural development grant of nearly $500,000 from Microsoft Corp. The center provides high-tech education and worker training. And Aurora devotes great energy to reaching out to its young people, to interest them in returning home after college.

Despite their challenges, Nebraska and other Plains states have room for optimism. Through civic vision, creative drive and sound tax policy, the region has important possibilities for growth.