Looking at small town America, from a small plane

Jim Fallows with his gear, on the ground in Holland.

Today kicks off a special project between James Fallows of The Atlantic and Marketplace. We're calling it "American Futures."

"This is the beginning of a trip we're going to be doing, going to smaller towns in America that have interesting economic stories, technologic stories, stories of demographic adjustment," says Fallows. "Parts of the American saga that are often left out of our normal news coverage."

The first stop? Holland, Mich. -- home to not only a large Dutch population (surprise, surprise), but also a whole lot of other industries. Once a shipbuilding area thanks to its proximity to Lake Michigan, manufacturing businesses in the area now make wind farm turbines, cars, office furniture -- even pickles.

"At a time when we wonder whether manufacturing is viable in America, this is a place that has a lot of it," says Fallows.

The town is in many ways representative of the American experience, but it has some differences. "What is an urgent question in most of the country -- how are we going to get the economy going again -- seems less urgent here," argues Fallows. "Obviously unemployment is a problem here, but there are these very successful, relatively stable locally based businesses.

Later this week, Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal will meet Fallows in Sioux Falls, S.D. Until then, follow Fallows' blog with pictures, extra audio and maps of the entire journey here.

About the author

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic.

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