Despite the current period of global uncertainty and economic upheaval, the time may be ripe to consider innovations in trade and cross-border relations. There is growing interest in the Great Plains and western Great Lakes regions of the United States and Canada for the concept of Heartlandia, an economic region straddling the middle of the North American continent – a North American central economic region spanning Northwestern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, North and South Dakota and Minnesota. There is growing recognition that a more formal approach to cross-border cooperation could bring about real improvements in the economy of this region and ultimately the quality of life. The concept of a formal cross-border regional framework is already well established on the west coast of North America with the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER).
Canada is best described as a set of politically linked regions united by a common trading partner – that once was Great Britain, but now is the United States, which takes 80 percent of Canada’s exports. The United States has a large population distributed in nodes throughout its territory interconnected via a dense network of transport corridors much like interlocking wheels and spokes thus facilitating internal commerce. At the same time, Canada is the United States’ largest trade partner and not China, Japan or Mexico. Canada, on the other hand is sparsely populated with its population strung out along the border in a line of isolated clusters making it easier to interact with Americans across the border than with each other across provincial boundaries.