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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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Your plane looks great, I imagine the feelings you get when flying cannot be described in words. Did you install any parts from http://www.itwmilitarygse.com/? As far as I notice you made a lot of improvements on the plane, the trip is long and have to have a perfectly working plane.

I hope you will consider Grangeville, ID, Moscow, ID or Twin Falls, ID. Boise is over-represented in national media as a Mecca for every young urban professional. It does NOT represent the state as a whole at all. Just try sitting in on the state legislature and see how the few Democrats from Boise are knocked down a peg ongoingly. Those folks are trying to Californicate Idaho and it is not allowed.

Wonderful story of your barnstorming. Couldn't notice that South Carolina was represented solely by Greenville. I assure you there are additional stories in the state and would like to personally invite you to visit the South Carolina Breakfast Club (www.flyscbc.com) to meet some of the folks who can speak to you about them. The SCBC is a home cooked southern breakfast, great fellowship and flying. Every other Sunday since 1938, pilots & aviation enthusiasts in and near South Carolina have met for breakfast - missing only events during World War II when fuel was not available. This is a club that has no dues — you join by attending your first meeting. The only rule is to fly safe. Our next meetings are in Anderson, SC (KAND) on August 18, Columbia Metropolitan (KCAE) on September 1 (KCAE), Moncks Corner, SC (KMKS ) on September 15, Laurens, SC (KLUX) on September 29, Camden, SC (KCDN) on October 6, Sumter, SC (KSMS) on October 8, and our 75th anniversary meeting at the place where it all started, Orangeburg, SC (KOGB), on November 3. We look forward to seeing you at one of our events and talking to you about the richness of small town South Carolina...

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