Travel restrictions are lifting, businesses are opening back up. And many small towns and cities are reporting a massive uptick in people looking for available properties to buy. Chambers of commerce, city offices, local post offices and realtors are reporting all manner of calls from folks seeking “that small town feeling.”
People are looking to telecommute, semi-retire or just raise their kids in a safer environment.
Now is an opportunity to shine, reinvent, reinvigorate and be darned proud of what we have to offer.
More residents mean fewer empty buildings, more kids in school, more people spending their money locally, and so many more good things for rural communities.
So, let’s get out of our grubbies and dress our communities in their Sunday bests. Every community has some shabby looking store fronts and yards. It's not personal. It just is. Get a service club, sports team, church group or other volunteers to do some tidying-up on Main Street. Mow those empty lots. People who like what they see are more likely to hang out and look further.
Teach everyone who comes in contact with visitors to respond positively to questions like “What’s to do around here?” “Nuthin’” doesn’t encourage visitors to stick around; “Lots of stuff!” does. Use the surrounding area to your advantage — day trips count as local, too!
And just as important: How do you welcome new folks to town? Chuck the “stranger danger, you’re not FROM here” treatment — your ancestors came here from somewhere else, too. Drop by with a welcome package that includes a list of all businesses — home-based and “hidden” ones, too — with phone numbers and a sentence or two about what they have to offer. And don’t forget the fun stuff — annual events, clubs, sports, parks, places to go and things to do.
Then include — really include — newcomers in all your community has to offer. Invite them to meetings, events, church, sports and gatherings. Invite them to join you when you volunteer in your community — many hands make for light work, right?
Spread the word about what’s out there for ALL age groups. Yes, our lives tend to revolve around school activities and sports, but that’s not all there is in our lives. How do we include recent arrivals and turn them into friends and community members?
We need to help folks see the tremendous amount rural communities have to offer. Remember “Kate’s 8” — no matter whether a town has 100 people or 100,000, we all have at least eight elements that draw people in.
- Geography — what’s of interest in the area?
- Commerce — everything counts, from farmers markets, to local craftspeople, to the Avon or Tupperware lady.
- Art/Culture — annual events, crafts fairs, and local activities are fun for everyone.
- Architecture — What unique buildings are in the area? Sod houses and picturesque barns count!
- History — Is there a historic building or site — or historic society — with a story to tell?
- Customs — what traditions do you share, possibly during an annual festival or event?
And last but not least our favorite two, because they so often come together: People and Food. Show newcomers your people, your personalities — and, even better, do it where food is involved. How better to connect than over a picnic, brat fest, or chili cook-off?
This is how communities grow and thrive. It’s how we get through tough times and make them better. We want newcomers to want to stay. We want them to buy homes, open businesses, and contribute time, energy, and money to the local economy. That’s how we keep our rural communities alive.
Find out more about how Tait & Kate help rural people, communities, and businesses thrive in “Tips & Tales” at www.taitandkate.com.