About the Midwest

America’s Smartland

“I see the Midwest as a region defined by its place and its people. We are the heartland and the headwaters of our nation. Not only do we embrace the best located and the most productive of our nation’s land, we embrace, and to a large extent are bound together by, the nation’s most remarkable freshwater resources: the Great Lakes and three of our country’s largest rivers—the Missouri, the Ohio and the Mississippi. We Midwesterners are location-rich, land-rich and water-rich in a world that is location-poor, land-poor and water-poor. What a gift our place is! But, the Midwest is also defined by its people—and our love of work, and our love of learning and our basic values, and our enthusiasm.”
Ohio Governor Richard Celeste
MGA meeting in 1987

With four distinct seasons, quality education systems, vibrant cities and relaxing country-sides, the Midwest is an ideal place to go to school, start a family and grow a business. Below are some highlights of the strengths of the Midwest. 

  • MGA Region has over 68 million people – 21 percent of national population
  • MGA region is over 673 million square miles, or 18 percent of national land area
  • MGA region has 27 percent of the nation’s surface water area
  • MGA region is nearly 5.05 trillion dollars – or 19.65 percent of the national GDP
  • 16 percent of MGA states’ GDP in the region is an average from manufacturing with some states in the low to-mid 20s
  • The Midwest has 29 land-border points of entry – some of the nation’s busiest U.S. border crossings
  • 4 main exports for the region include: machinery, transportation, chemicals and processed food
  • Midwestern states awarded nearly 780,000 post-secondary degrees – 25 percent of the national total

Living and Working in the Region

Long known for its superior standard of living, the recentUS News Best States ranking has 4 Midwest states in the top 10 and 8 in the top 30!

In their 2017 survey, Livability.com‘s list of America’s Best Places to live ranked 6 Midwestern towns in the top 10 best places to live.

Getting an Education

The Midwest offers students and academic professionals opportunities for well-rounded and diverse intellectual and applied pursuits. Collectively, the Midwest has a strong legacy of academic research, university collaboration and providing an opportunity for all who are interested in learning.

In its 2016 annual ranking of colleges and universities, U.S. News and World Report said 21 percent of the top 125 undergraduate institutions are in the Midwest. With advanced degrees becoming increasingly valuable to employers, the region is also a leader in top graduate schools and programs; including:

  • 7 of the top 25 law schools;
  • 6 of the top 26 business schools;
  • 7 of the top 32 engineering schools;
  • 10 of the top 40 schools for mathematics;
  • 5 of the top 18 schools for chemistry;
  • 9 of the top 33 medical research schools; and
  • 5 of the top 14 schools for economics.

For more information on these schools, rankings and other top performing Midwestern institutions, click here.


Midwestern institutions also realize the value of leveraging their collective strengths to further the region’s role as a leader in research, education and innovation. An example of this collective effort can be found through the Midwest Research University Center.

The region also has strong community and technical colleges. For a list of community and technical colleges in the region click here. For more information on the community and technical colleges in Midwestern states, click here.

Starting and Growing a Business

While the Midwest is sometimes referred to as “the rust belt,” the region remains a national powerhouse in manufacturing. The National Association of Manufacturing found that 31 percent of manufacturing jobs in this nation are located within MGA states and 28 percent of manufacturing’s contribution to GDP is from the region.

No matter what type of business you are looking to grow or create – you will be among highly successful and performing companies that already call the Midwest home. In the 2015 survey of Fortune 500 companies, 127 companies are headquartered in the Midwest.

States are continuing efforts to actively engage companies to assist entrepreneurs and small business owners. Click here to access this resource. The MGA has also compiled a list of business competitions in states, the region and nationally. Click here to visit this site.

In today’s global economy, city and state borders are proving less relevant. Instead, companies focus on the workforce, infrastructure and educational institutions of a region when choosing where to locate their company. That’s why it is even more important for the region to come together as a formidable competitor not just with other regions of the country, but also with countries around the globe.

According to the International Trade Administration, Midwestern goods accounted for nearly one fifth, or $1.66 trillion, of the nation’s merchandise exports from 2009-2014, with 3 of the top 9 performing states located in the Midwest. Regional organizations, such as the Midwest U.S. – China Association and Midwest U.S. – Japan Association, are also helping regional companies connect with international markets and investors.

Global Reach

Source: Governor Holcomb's Facebook

Visiting The Region

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

The Midwest has varied landscapes and activities: from the plains of Kansas to the forests of Wisconsin; the bustle of Chicago to the fertile fields of Iowa to the Ozarks of Missouri; the “Motor City” in Michigan to the speedways of Indiana; the carved presidents of Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota to Ohio, the “Mother of Presidents”; to the great lakes, the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota. It is a place like no other.

The Midwest is truly “America’s Heartland” with international cities, rural communities, natural wonders, cultural and sporting events, refreshing beaches and the world’s most productive agricultural communities. The region is also exceedingly navigable with well-planned roads and highway systems, linked passenger rail service, integrated waterways and connected airports that make traveling throughout the Midwest convenient for visitors. Midwesterners are also known for their friendly, welcoming personalities and “down-to-earth” nature. The ease of travel and welcoming spirit represents the best America has to offer.

In addition to the wide array of national parks within the region, click here to view, Midwestern states also offer numerous state parks for residents and visitors.