Just as powerful centrifugal forces rip through the Republican and Democratic parties, a bipartisan consensus is being built in the heartland of America. Mayors and governors of both parties are quickly moving toward a centrist economic and political program that calls for entrepreneurial-minded governments to actively help companies grow. The aggressively probusiness public-private partnership of the 1990s is the antithesis of the high-tax, heavy-regulation policies of the 1980s.
Building on the region's famous "can do" pragmatism, Midwestern states are in the forefront of worker-training programs, setting up manufacturing extension services, promoting exports, and actively soliciting investments from abroad. Many of the Clinton Administration's new economic initiatives are already in place in Midwest states.
Vice-President Al Gore's "reinventing government" initiative, for example, is well along in Indianapolis, where Mayor Stephen Goldsmith has let out to bid public services ranging from garbage collection to pothole filling. Deere & Co. is using $1.4 million worth of Illinois state grants to train suppliers in methods that will improve quality. And, through special legislation, Iowa has made Des Moines a global insurance mecca, home to 200 insurance companies employing 21,000 people.
The rebounding of the American Midwest is a reminder of how productive a partnership can be between efficient government and dynamic business. With the center having a difficult time holding within the Republican and Democratic parties, the bipartisan consensus being built in the heartland points the way to a practical and promising future.