"As the nation has urbanized, and turned increasingly into a service and technology-based economy, the semi-arid area between the Mississippi Valley and the Rockies has been described as little more than a mistaken misadventure best left undone," says the introduction of The Rise of the Great Plains: Regional Opportunity in the 21st Century [PDF]. Decades ago, the academics Frank J. Popper and Deborah Popper even proposed a depopulation to return the region to a "buffalo commons" or "the ultimate national park."
The report finds, contrary to popular opinion, that "[r]ather than decline, over the past decade the area has surpassed the national norms in everything from population increase to income and job growth." The new in-migration of young families and the "strong growth in agriculture, manufacturing and energy - as well as a growing tech sector" have contributed to the region's rebirth. The researchers acknowledge that the Great Plains do face "formidable environmental and infrastructural challenges" including adequate water supplies and air connections, but they believe that the area's "resources, information technology and changing demographics - augur well for the future of the Great Plains."