Middle America is attracting coast talent

Cities in Middle America are growing into hubs for workers in the knowledge and creative sectors.

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Middle America is attracting coast talent


Future. Cities in Middle America are growing into hubs for workers in the knowledge and creative sectors, attracting talent from the coast. While work-from-anywhere arrangements are currently driving the trend, a new study found that the migration was happening even before COVID hit… which means that hotspots like L.A., NYC, and San Francisco have officially priced out all but the top earners in those industries.

Brains to the heartland
The coasts are getting a little cramped.

  • According to a study from think tank Heartland Forward, many metros in the heartland — 20 states from the Midwest to the Sun Belt — are becoming hubs for knowledge and creative workers.
  • Cities like Nashville, Austin, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Cincinnati are some of the hot new spots.
  • College towns like Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Madison, Wisconsin also made gains.
  • All still lag the usual suspects like San Francisco, Los Angeles, NYC, and D.C., but they’re gaining.

Heartland Forward conducted the study by charting “two basic measures for talent” in every metro area in the heartland: “educational attainment, based on the share of adults who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher; and occupation or workforce skill, based on the share of the workforce engaged in knowledge, professional and creative occupations.”

Metro update
Coastal cities have always been attractive, not just because of their “thick labor markets,” but because there are amenities to service a bustling, creative/knowledge class (i.e. the lifestyle is hoppin’).

But many of the cities on the Heartland list are now home to incredible restaurants, entertainment venues, top universities, or migrating corporations while also offering outdoor amenities like bike trails and camping hotspots that people want more than ever. And, of course, real estate is way cheaper.

Surprisingly, the study only took data from 2010 to 2019, meaning that pandemic and work-from-anywhere migration wasn’t factored into the findings. Considering how much  Nashville and Austin have boomed since the pandemic began, the data now would probably show an even more substantial trend toward people moving inland.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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