Frequently Asked Questions

What is Heartland Forward?

Heartland Forward, an institute for economic renewal, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit “think and do tank” focused on improving economic performance in the center of the United States.

Why Heartland Forward?

Most research and policy efforts by existing think tanks in the Heartland are focused on the specific state or metropolitan area where the think tank is located. Right now, there is minimal policy research and discussion focused on the Heartland as a whole. We think a cross-cutting view is critical to solving the region's challenges, and Heartland Forward will fill this void. While recognizing the differences between places in the center of the country, we will analyze the region holistically to identify common issues and solutions.

What is Heartland Forward’s mission?

Our mission is to improve the economic performance in the center of the United States by advocating for fact-based solutions to foster job creation, knowledge-based and inclusive growth, and improved health outcomes.

What does Heartland Forward do to achieve its mission?

We are achieving our mission through independent, data-driven research; action-oriented discussion; and impactful policy recommendations.

The Institute conducts applied economic research to analyze and explain the factors that influence regional economic development nationwide, while focusing on how these factors impact the American Heartland—especially micropolitan areas.

Heartland Forward focuses on both transformative and traditional research:

Transformative research concentrates on factors that impact the American Heartland’s economy through innovation, such as research development and commercialization, human capital formation and labor force skills training, entrepreneurship awareness and capacity, access to early-stage risk capital, and issues around immigration, demographics, health status, and quality of place.

Traditional research focuses on traditional factors of economic activity, such as tax rates, wage levels, energy costs, regulatory structure, and other costs of doing business. In addition, it will explore how international trade, foreign direct investment, and business climate are influencing economic activity in the American Heartland.

Importantly, we are both a “think tank” and a “do tank,” meaning we want to see our research in action. That’s why Heartland Forward has five key goals for our research:

Identify emerging issues: Through our research efforts and the insights we gain, we identify new, timely issues that are affecting the Heartland's economy and communities.

Serve as a resource: We produce indices and rankings that regularly report on various economic and development factors in locales across the Heartland, presenting the data in accessible formats for media, government officials, researchers, and other interested parties.

Develop solutions and inform policy: We build on our senior staff’s experience, strong partnerships, robust data, and expertise in economic theory to develop innovative, implementable economic and policy solutions that provide stakeholders with the tools to create high-quality jobs and foster industry expansion in the Heartland.

Build community: We provide our peers and supporters with research content relative to their organizations or communities, facilitate convenings (including Heartland Summit), and implement potential fundraising opportunities to allow us to continue working toward our mission.

Partner for greater impact: We evaluate potential collaborations with partners and devote our resources and attention to critical questions where we can have the biggest impact.

Where is Heartland Forward located?

Heartland Forward is based in Bentonville, Arkansas, but our work focuses on the entire Heartland region.

How is Heartland Forward funded?

Heartland Forward is registering as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization under IRS guidelines. We receive private donations from individuals who provide generous support to our efforts to help improve economic performance across the Heartland.

How is the Heartland region defined?

The American Heartland is comprised of the 20 states in the middle of the country, which are those states included in the East North Central, West North Central, East South Central, and West South Central U.S. Census regions. The states are Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

What is the relationship between Heartland Forward and Heartland Summit?

The Heartland Summit is the flagship convening of Heartland Forward. It showcases the exciting innovation happening between the coasts, sparks frank conversations about the challenges the region is facing, and builds networks to sustain economic growth and power problem solving across the country.

What is the mission of the Heartland Summit?

The Heartland Summit is designed to kick-start economic growth and social innovation by strengthening connections between some of our nation’s best thinkers, problem-solvers and investors. The best ideas for powering the Heartland’s future will come from those who know it best and who can see the paths to progress and opportunities on the horizon.

Can I attend the Heartland Summit?

The Heartland Summit is a by-invitation-only event. A small group of business and thought leaders will be invited to attend. You can follow along with some of the event's keynote speakers and panel sessions at our website and by following #HeartlandSummit/#MeetInTheMiddle.