We can be our own worst enemies. It’s time to change that habit.
The rural narrative that others are writing about us is just not true. Rural is NOT dying, and they are describing rural based on deficits. Let’s get better about talking about our assets.
Our downtowns have changed not because they are rural but because living in the world has changed.
Rural population has actually gone up 11% since 1970. Our urban areas are growing wider, not taller. Des Moines, Iowa has spread out to include in the metro West Des Moines, Urbandale, Grimes, Ankeny and many more. Look in your state, do you see the metros spreading out to include what used to be small towns? Wider – not taller.
Too often we tell our stories based on used to, coulda done, and shoulda had.
We focus on what we didn’t get, what we don’t have and what went wrong. Realize you are not helping to tell your story in a positive light.
If you ask me about Webster City, Iowa I’m going to share about our 6 mile trail that goes out to Briggs Woods Park. I’ll tell you about the movie theater we saved from extinction. You’ll hear about all the new businesses coming to town.
If you ask someone else it is very likely you’ll hear “we used to have the factory, but they left and now we don’t have much.” That is certainly true – they left. But what is not true is the statement we don’t have much. We used to have a factory; we coulda saved it maybe; we shoulda got another factory. These are not stories that welcome newcomers.
If a place is nice place to visit, it’s a nice place to live there.
Let’s start showing our visitors our nice side. What are the good things about your community? Write them down, and share them everywhere. Encourage your friends to talk about the good things. Post them on Facebook.
Can’t find enough nice things to talk about? Look at the nonprofits in your community. Our nonprofits tell the world what we care about, what is important. In my town we focus on mental health, senior care, youth involvement, and building up our downtown. There are more of course, but those are the ones I know for sure about. People volunteer and give to nonprofits in your town, those are the things they care about. Rural leads the world in giving to our own, and making life better for those who need it.
People want to live in small towns for several reasons .
They include; simpler pace of life, safety and security, low housing costs, and the ability to be part of the community. In fact, there is a migration of 30 to 59-year old’s moving into rural areas. How can we get those people to come to our towns?
We expect these newcomers to be ‘part of my group’ and when you don’t notice them you say “well, they’re not in my group.” Newcomers are engaged; however, they are engaged in their interests, not yours! When we do meet these newcomers, we welcome them to the community and then ask them to be part of our groups. Join the Rotary! Join the Lions! Volunteer here!
We are looking for leadership before engagement.
What if we took the time to get to know them first instead of scaring them off? Find out what their interests are and stop asking them to join organizations that require they commit a huge chunk of their time. Invite them to the pancake dinner. Tell them about the music in the park. Let them know what is going on in your town, and find out what they are interested in.
Tell your story in a positive light, and engage with people.