The future of the Midwest may be taking shape in some unlikely places, out of the view of most pundits, by people who are tired of letting someone else determine how they will live and have decided to do it themselves.
One of these places is called The 7 Rivers Region, where parts of southwestern Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa come together. It's an extraordinary beautiful area, clustered around the towering bluffs and watery sweep of the Mississippi River valley, south of the Twin Cities and north of Dubuque. The region's core is the two towns of LaCrosse, Wisconsin and Winona, Minnesota -- both pleasant and prosperous little cities but not exactly the top of the agenda when economic planners meet these days.
Those planners should take another look. The 7 Rivers people are pioneering the concept of regionalism -- the idea that, in a global economy, individual cities and states are too small to compete, so can thrive only by leveraging their assets in broader regions. They haven't exactly seceded from their states, but they're linking arms across the Mississippi to promote their region, without waiting for Madison, St. Paul or Des Moines to do it for them.