Revival of Towns

Most parents would be thrilled if their kids returned to where they grew up to raise their families. How do rural states keep the kids from leaving permanently?

STEM education is a growing part of the curriculum across the country. Seeing pictures of kids in rural areas of Iowa on computers creating projects with huge smiles on their face always makes me happy. I just wonder about the job options that there will be for them at home in the future.

I have talked with a few people who are working on the redevelopment of Poughkeepsie NY or Montgomery AL. Bringing back towns that once thrived. Bringing back a local economy through housing, arts, food and education. We will see more of this as top cities become more expensive and next generations crave different cultures to raise their families.

SF investors have put so much capital into their area that they have destroyed the balance of the community. It is so expensive to live there and the homeless population has exploded. It is not a good look. How do these rural areas get large companies to create outposts so that economic prosperity can be spread across these towns?

Many are working on the revitalization of their own towns and ones that have been left in the dust. It will be interesting to watch how these areas figure out how to bring the young adults home to raise their families.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Been shopping in the Hudson Valley so have been getting to know the towns well.What has been done in Hudson. What is happening before our eyes in Kingston-the good and the stupid.

  2. pointsnfigures

    We have a place in a town of 1300 people in rural far northern MN. We are drilling a well for our property. It’s always run off a spring, but we want a consistent source of water. Talking to the well driller he said no one is getting into the dirt business and other businesses like well drilling. Reason, paperwork is extensive and getting worse. Continuing education requirements are expensive and require two to three days to travel to, buy a hotel room etc. Additionally up here because the season is so short, they have increased costs-12 months of insurance for 6 months of work. Embracing less regulation and some free enterprise will revitalize them faster than any program.

    1. Anne Libby

      Also, how’s the broadband access up there? That can be a barrier to business, too.

      1. Pointsandfigures

        I have fiber to my door. 1G service. It’s really fast. Better than Chicagp. However if you can’t afford it it’s is tough. There used to be kids that would drive their cars to the library parking lot to grab internet to do their homework.Another huge issue in small towns is mandates enforced by state or Federal government that drives up costs unnecessarily. Sometimes it’s in education and other times it’s in other parts of your life. One size doesn’t fit all. Cities are far different than small towns but most regulations don’t account for that

      2. Gotham Gal


        1. LE

          You know what? Nobody with any hustle wants to live ‘there’. Just l like you wouldn’t want to live there. Sure you’d visit but you wouldn’t want to make it home. And even if there were others, there wouldn’t be the critical mass needed to make something happen. Impossible? No nothing is. Unlikely? Yes for sure. Highly. By and large the best advice that can be given (very generally) to a young person with hustle is to move to a place that for whatever reason others seem to find attractive and want to move to where there are tons of people and things going on (and I don’t mean ‘the arts’ or entertainment things either. Not to a place where nothing is going on (opportunity wise). You could wait forever. (Then you will get married and won’t be able to move..)Last year I drove through Sunny Isles (North Miami Beach). They are stuffing building tall all over the place literally no room anywhere. People want to be there (South Florida) even with the negatives. Where I am? Can’t even get something built on a major road because the local suburban people don’t want the traffic that it will create on the street they live on. Everything is a fight. No new housing because ‘don’t want to build any new schools’. Malls dying and so on. Sure there are cute towns here and there with nice main streets and like 3 restaurants and cute coffee shop. That gets old pretty quickly though. (Agree that this is less of an issue in a dying small town but a dying small town has other reasons that make it less attractive than a suburb of a more or less major city).But here is the thing. Not everyone has the hustle. There is a local real estate guy that I deal with where I am. And he’s here doing what he could be doing in a way more active and profitable market than where I am (and have to be). I said to him ‘why don’t you move to (big city) and do the same thing’? Doesn’t want to. Happy beating his brains out for small commissions doing small deals. Lead a horse to water stuff. Told the same thing to my niece. Why are you in that small town outside of where you went to college? There aren’t even single men there (she told me not my thought). I told her ‘move to NYC or even move to Philly at least’. Nope doesn’t want to.Think what your life would be if you didn’t move to NYC when you graduated. (Well at least you were near LA I think but imagine if you had been in a 2nd rate large city or small town even one that wasn’t dying).

  3. jtsvino

    Whenever I visit a small US town that appears as a shadow of its former self, coping with a host of contemporary problems and issues, I badly want to see it succeed, reinvent, while still connecting to its past. James and Deborah Fallows have published a book on their recent project visiting small towns USA, that gives reasons for optimism based on things actually happening in these towns. A major theme is contrast between dismal perspective on national scale vs vitality and constructive action at local scale in these places.Much content also available on the “American Futures” site:https://www.theatlantic.com

  4. Kirsten Lambertsen

    That picture could be Red Bank, ha!I’m from Wyoming (talk about how do you keep ’em home?!). I was astonished to see something on LinkedIn this week about Wyoming trying to position itself as the place to set up your *crypto* business –… We’ll see if it works. I’m sure not going back, ha!

    1. JLM

      .I served time in the penal colony known as Red Bank Catholic. I used to be addicted to Elsie’s and the little diner next to the police station.I used to take the train to school and shoot pool with the criminals at the Blue Diamond.Red Bank was always undershooting its location on the Navesink. It is tres chic now.Who knew?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  5. LE

    Most parents would be thrilled if their kids returned to where they grew up to raise their families.Note to young people. Don’t do what will thrill your parents. Do what is best for you long term. If that means moving away for opportunity do that. Note to parents. Don’t be selfish. Let your kids go to where it’s best for them not where they are close to you.

  6. Semil Shah

    Have you spent much time in Pittsburgh?

    1. awaldstein

      should i?

      1. pointsnfigures

        It’s tech scene has revitalized the city.

        1. awaldstein

          there is even a tech community in kingston which just makes sense 90 minutes from NY.when i share travel tips with friends the best places to work crop up all the time. just this week at my local wine bar talking to an acquaintance about unknown outer district natural wine bars in paris, his huge list included local eateries, wine spots, non touristy walks and some unique work share spots.i like this change.

      2. Semil Shah

        as it relates to this post, yes. Also, read what PG has written about Pittsburgh.

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Pittsburgh is great. Definitely a city undergoing a renaissance (almost exclusively because of Anthrocon and the Warhol Museum — just kidding). We were there for 4th of July this year, and I gotta say, it was a little bit magical.

  7. TejDhawan

    Kids who are growing up in rural states like mine (Iowa) are often choosing to come back themselves due to the increasing salaries linked directly to crazy-low unemployment (hovering around 2%). Global companies that are developing technology in Fintech, Insuretech, Medtech and more are able to hire significantly higher number of talented people for terrestrial salaries and benefits.As an aging (50ish) member of the tech, angel, and corporate community, I routinely talk with startups and corporate employees alike. 20-somethings who are building businesses or careers and living in 1500+ sq ft homes they own and enjoy, < 10-30min commutes, and clean air. I am amazed and grateful that they continue bringing their talent back to their rural states. They have a growing list of job options for them in the future, options that pay 70-140K depending upon talent and career.The challenge is to stem their urbanization. Our electoral college essentially necessitates maintaining a balance of political diversity in the rural counties. Much of this diversity comes from education, opportunities, and lifestyle. We remove (or worse deride) this diversity at our own peril.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Unfortunately if you don’t have a WSJ subscription you can’t read it but the headline says it all. New Left Urbanists. People who actually care about others.

      1. pointsnfigures

        One snippet “One widely circulated left-urbanist plan from April 2018 comes from the People’s Policy Project, a crowdfunded socialist think tank. The authors, Peter Gowan and Ryan Cooper, envision the construction of 10 million “municipal homes” over the next decade. The proposal imagines local governments building more housing units than the private construction industry and becoming the largest landlord in many cities.The abysmal record of public housing in the U.S., from crime to decay, makes no difference to these urbanists. They rebrand “housing projects” as “municipal homes” and assert that new units will resemble neighborhoods in Stockholm, Vienna and Helsinki, rather than Detroit, Newark and Oakland.”I’d say we see it differently. Chicago will be the first socialist run city in the US in the next ten years. I prefer private market capitalism to solve the problems.

  8. Donna Brewington White

    Companies like Rural Sourcing and others that are similar may be part of the solution. At least as far as spreading technology opportunities to the rest of the country. Although it seems like supply could be an issue without accompanying programs to develop tech talent or transplant it.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Hope so

  9. NoGold

    My thoughts:The rise and fall of towns has been a problem since day dot. It might be sad to see, but it is the way it is. Just a few cities seem to last “forever”.1. Most small towns started out with a purpose. (e.g. Mail Coach Stops – Obviously they no longer have a purpose.) Find the origins and then any later drivers of population growth and you will see when the decline/death of the town is likely to occur. Decline may stop (or never occur) because a new purpose is found. That new purpose can be through chance or through active search. But without a current purpose the average town will die.2. Some big cities have such a long history, are so multi purpose and have such openness that they should always succeed. The exchange of ideas between people is normally enough to discover the next source of wealth and to perpetuate the city’s success. These are potentially ‘forever’ citys and they can only be ruined by natural devastation, despotism, or setting in aspic.