[imgcontainer right] [img:kentuckyprotest.jpeg] Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (center) meets with 20 Kentuckians, led by Silas House, who occupied his office to protest mountaintop removal mining. (Author Wendell Berry is to the right.) House wrote in the New York Times about why his group took this action. [/imgcontainer]

Small towns in the Great Plains states are doing better economically this February than a year ago, according to the latest from the Rural Mainstreet Index

Once a month, economists at Creighton University in Omaha survey small town bankers across ten Plains states, from Missouri to Wyoming. February’s survey finds that the pace of growth has slowed, but that the economy in these small towns continues to expand. 

And Creighton economist Ernest Gross says that a cheap dollar, expanding world markets and alternative energy production “are pushing the Rural Mainstreet economy into territory not experienced since the early 1970s.”

The rural Midwest continues to add jobs, but still has some catching up to do to reach pre-recession employment levels.

“For this part of the country, rural areas are clearly outpacing the urban areas in terms of job growth. Even with recent job gains, the Rural Mainstreet economy has 115,100 fewer jobs today (2.4 percent) than before the recession,” said Goss.

Silas House, leader of the 20 Kentuckians who occupied the governor’s office last week to protest mountaintop removal mining, explains his motivations in the New York Times:

As a child I once stood on a cedar-pocked ridge with my father, looking down on a strip mine near the place that had been our family cemetery. My great-aunt’s grave had been “accidentally” buried under about 50 feet of unwanted topsoil and low-grade coal; “overburden,” the industry calls it. My father took a long, deep breath. I feel that I’ve been holding it ever since.

• Nearly six out of ten Iowans agree that the state “cannot afford to pay for preschool for all children while we have other budget challenges.” 

• The Des Moines Register editorial page says the state has made a mistake by concentrating its development efforts on small towns rather than Iowa’s cities: 

It is probably too late to turn this around. The cities of Iowa will likely never be able to compete with Chicago or Minneapolis. Still, Iowa’s modest population growth has been occurring mostly in urban areas (mostly in the suburbs). Iowa’s smartest growth strategy is to grow its cities. Iowa must give young people reasons not to migrate to cities in other states, and it must make its cities attractive to people from outside Iowa.

• The San Francisco Chronicle reports that cutbacks in federal funding for public television and radio would hurt rural areas more than urban ones.

“Small television and radio stations serving rural, politically red areas in California and other states would likely feel the biggest impact of such a move because 70 percent of public broadcasting funds are channeled to local stations,” writes Joe Garofoli. 

“Well-endowed public broadcasting outlets in more liberal metropolitan areas – such as KQED in San Francisco – probably would be able to survive their share of a $430 million cut that is part of a GOP-sponsored bill trimming $61 billion in spending that passed the House on Saturday.” 

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