Every four years, politicians, pundits, and reporters descend on Iowa to hear how voters are feeling, and what their mood might say about the selection of the next president of the United States. Relative to much of the country, Iowa is prospering: Urban areas are thriving and corn is fetching record prices. But smaller industrial towns are struggling. The World’s Jason Margolis spent time in three rural Iowa communities to see how they are dealing with the shifting economic challenges of globalization and changing immigration patterns.
Knocked Down by Globalization, Newton, Iowa Rebuilds
Downtown Newton (Photo: Jason Margolis)
On paper, the economics of Iowa look pretty good. It has the seventh lowest unemployment rate in the nation. But not everywhere in Iowa is prospering. Rural manufacturing towns continue to struggle as jobs go to cheaper foreign locations. How does a town that’s hit rock bottom, like Newton in central Iowa, start to rebuild?
Storm Lake, Iowa: A Meatpacking Town Fueled by Immigrant Labor
Storm Lake, Iowa (Photo: Jason Margolis)
Immigration reform has come up in the Republican presidential debates, but it hasn’t been nearly as big of a topic as in years past. The issue still evokes strong passions, however, in many small Iowa towns that rely on immigrant labor at their meat packing plants. It’s an open secret: Many of the workers are undocumented.
How to Lure Foreign Money: Lessons from Fort Dodge, Iowa
A farm near Fort Dodge, Iowa (Photo: Jason Margolis)
Small manufacturing towns throughout the Midwest have been ravaged by foreign competition for some 30 years. Call it irony, or call it smart business, but some of these same communities are now trying to reinvent themselves by turning to foreign competition.
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Apathy in Iowa
A farmhouse somewhere in Iowa (Photo: Jason Margolis)
Everywhere I turned, I found disinterest among Iowa voters. I thought this was supposed to be the great hotbed of American democracy in action. Was it me? Or are Iowans over this whole caucus thing already?