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Thunder on the Great Plains: Once Written-Off Region Enjoying Remarkable Revival
Joel Kotkin, Forbes They may not win their first championship against Miami's evil empire, but the Oklahoma City Thunder have helped to put a spotlight on what may well be the most surprising success story of 21st century America: the revival of the Great Plains. Once widely dismissed as the ultimate in flyover country, the Plains states have outperformed the national average for the past decade by virtually every key measure of vitality — from population, income and GDP growth to unemployment — and show no sign of slowing down. It’s a historic turnaround. For decades, the East Coast media has portrayed the vast region between Texas and the Dakotas as a desiccated landscape of emptying towns, meth labs and right-wing “clingers.” Just five years ago, The New York Times described the Plains as “not far from forsaken.” Many in the media and academia embraced Deborah and Frank Popper’s notion that the whole region should be abandoned for “a Buffalo commons.” The Great Plains, the East Coast academics concluded, represents “the largest, longest-running agricultural and environmental miscalculation in American history” and boldly predicted the area would “become almost totally depopulated.” Yet a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion. Rising commodity prices, the tapping of shale gas and oil formations and an unheralded shift of industry and people into the interior has propelled the Plains economy through the Great Recession. Read More