Summit: Midwest economy needs more regional collaboration

Twelve provosts from the Big Ten universities and the Midwest region say they will work together on efforts to make the Midwest’s economy more competitive and are calling on governors to join them in the effort. The provosts from the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), a consortium of the Big Ten universities plus the University of Chicago, signed a resolution during an economic summit convened by the provosts at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis on Friday.

University leaders, leaders of regional banks, chief executive officers, government leaders, economists, researchers and professors participated in the summit in an effort to find ways to break down barriers that prevent them from effectively working together to build a vital Midwest economy. The summit, "Developing a Regional View of the Midwest Economy: Breaking Down Barriers That Impede Regional Progress," was sponsored by the University of Minnesota, the CIC and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

The summit concluded that the region already possesses vitally important assets, including the Great Lakes, significant industrial and corporate entities, world-class research universities, dynamic cities and agricultural resources – all of which are central to a vibrant Midwest economy.

"There has to be a better partnership – public-private partnership between the political leadership of each state and the business and corporate leaders, to be able to understand that they need a closer relationship with the universities that are literally in their back door and have all the talent to educate and to train the next generation of workers," said University of Minnesota provost Thomas Sullivan.

"The Midwest economy is undergoing an uneven transition to a new economic model propelled by knowledge based industries. While cities such as Chicago and Minneapolis have prospered by reinventing themselves and becoming meccas for new industries and talented workers, other parts of the region struggle with moving up the economic food chain. What is clear is that the production and retention of skilled human capital will have to be at the center of any regional plan to promote economic vitality," said Richard Mattoon, senior economist and economic advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

The region has strengths to build on, but it is losing ground as other regions make a more compelling case for where investment should go.

"The Midwest is failing the challenge of globalization, largely because it’s so balkanized, with each state trying to compete in the global economy. Midwestern states are simply too small, too incompetent, too obsessed with the wreckage of the industrial economy, to deal with the problems of the future, like education. It’s time for other players – cities, businesses, especially universities – to come together in a concerted regional approach that would leverage the Midwest’s strengths, not undermine them," said Richard Longworth, senior fellow, Chicago Council on Global Affairs and author of the new book, "Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism" (Bloomsbury).

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