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Rosie_0801
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What do you people have to say on the topics of rural development, decentralising employment from capital cities, creating jobs in regional cities and small towns and stuff like that?

 

The US talks about college towns. Does that mean the college is the major employer? Or does it mean there wasn't really a town until the college plonked itself there?

 

What could have been done to save places that are now ghost towns? Or weren't they worth saving?

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There are advantages to decentralized homes and towns more in an agricultural or resource heavy area. We tend to see them in this country where a local industry supported them - a paper mill, coal, corn, fur trading, railroad crossing, fishing, fruit, etc etc.

 

But as more of that production has been mechanized and the workforce has become more operators and technicians than agronomists and lumber jacks, centralizing to cities makes more sense because of where the jobs and amenities are.

 

To some extent you can force some revitalization or land development by plopping a big enough company in the middle of nowhere and letting a small town pop up around it to service the area, but there are two big weaknesses to this strategy.

 

First, more and more people ship goods to themselves, and this means that maintaining storefronts and a Main Street is tougher than ever, making the creation of a town a hard road.

 

Second, that town is nearly always going to be overly dependent on their single industry or employer, which makes the employees very vulnerable to the success or failure of the one company and will tank multiple families etc one if the companies moves, merges, or fails. It also means your town never really gets much bigger than the company plus support staff, which makes it much less durable should something happen to that big magnet. Even if people want to stay behind, suddenly there isn't enough commerce to support it.

Edited by Arctic Mama
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I live in a rural area in a "college town". The college is the main employer, and, besides the hospital, one of very few places that employes highly educated people. It alters the entire economy of the town, because people employed there have higher salaries than otherwise typical for the region, and thus are able to pay for goods and services and support local businesses. (Plus, add a few thousand students who spend money as well) Unless most other towns in the region, ours is growing.

There are also towns that did not exist until a college located there.

 

Currently, one of the biggest challenges for businesses who want to locate in rural areas is the absence of broadband internet. I recently listened to a report on NPR on that topic; companies struggle if they can't find a provider so they can handle their online inventory and all the online services they use to run the business. Without this infrastructure, companies cannot locate in rural areas.

 

I see rural areas as a big challenge the geography provides. I am not sure what could draw companies to invest in sparsely populated poor rural areas, unless it's soemthing that uses the locally available resources (timber, for example). I think it is inevitable that some areas depopulate. 

 

ETA: I do not think propping up towns artificially by pumping money into unsustainable industries that are either no longer relevant, or simply no longer need to employ large numbers of people, is the way to go. 

Edited by regentrude
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In the case of college towns, an awful lot had land endowments or sales and yes, not only is the college a major employer but the support industries grow accordingly. If you're not attending the school or working there you have a relative who does, or you work in a business that is sustained by that influx of students and cash or study grants and fellowships. Many of these do grow as the university does. But just plunking a college down doesn't guarantees town grows by any means. It takes years to establish a healthy student population and it's hard to draw a good department when one doesn't already exist. But without the professorial heft it is difficult to entice students to come in the first place. There are so many choices now too.

 

In some sense I think the age of expanding physical colleges has somewhat passed. Reached critical mass. More than a few are closing their doors due to insufficient enrollment and high expense. If anything is growing it is online programs, but those need much less in the way of physical resources to sustain and thus aren't really the same sort of magnet for development by any means.

Edited by Arctic Mama
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to me the main thing in my rural town is the community college. I do not describe this as a college town, though. I have lived in what I describe as a college town, though. When I went to university I was surrounded by college age people. More businesses that catered to young people and such (bars, music scene, house parties, late hours at fast food chains, a 24 hour Walgreen's, text book store that wasn't affiliated with the campus, café that was constantly filled with college students, Sun. evening Mass followed by meal for the youth, etc.).

 

I don't know what came first with that college town... like I don't know what the town was like prior to the college.

 

I used to live in a small town that had a mall. We had that going for us. And now the mall has been torn down. A few new places have opened since then, but I feel like losing the mall really hurt the town.

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I'm not unfamiliar with the problems in rural towns. Oh, broadband! I can't even get decent phone reception when I'm standing on a chair outside on a sunny, wind-less day! The solutions, though. Presumably there aren't quick fixes, or we all wouldn't still have the problems, but I'm interested in whether the rest of the world has any worth pinching. :D

 

It is unreasonable to expect a large company to move to a sparsely populated, poor area. But if they can move to regional cities, that allows smaller towns to become commuter cities, which is one step.

 

I'm interested in call centres too. Why do call centres need to be in the major cities? (I'm not really sure how to refer to the towns I mean. In Australia, the capital city is where pretty much all the white collar jobs are. Even call centres, that surely could be located elsewhere. We have rural cities, but only one major city per state. I think this is not the case in the US, since I didn't even realise until a few years ago that Miami wasn't the capital of Florida.)

 

I'm not big on industrial welfare either.

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One issue with rural areas is that often they are dependent on a few major employers, and if one leaves (or fails) for any reason, you have mega unemployment.  People can't drive long distances to get another blue-collar job - the cost of transportation wouldn't justify it.  (They'll try for a while, car pooling or whatever, but it's not sustainable.)  So people move out or live in poverty.

 

In my industry there are extra incentives for businesses to invest in low-income rural areas.

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I'm not unfamiliar with the problems in rural towns. Oh, broadband! I can't even get decent phone reception when I'm standing on a chair outside on a sunny, wind-less day! The solutions, though. Presumably there aren't quick fixes, or we all wouldn't still have the problems, but I'm interested in whether the rest of the world has any worth pinching. :D

 

It is unreasonable to expect a large company to move to a sparsely populated, poor area. But if they can move to regional cities, that allows smaller towns to become commuter cities, which is one step.

 

I'm interested in call centres too. Why do call centres need to be in the major cities? (I'm not really sure how to refer to the towns I mean. In Australia, the capital city is where pretty much all the white collar jobs are. Even call centres, that surely could be located elsewhere. We have rural cities, but only one major city per state. I think this is not the case in the US, since I didn't even realise until a few years ago that Miami wasn't the capital of Florida.)

 

I'm not big on industrial welfare either.

 

Yes, it sounds like the US is much more decentralized.

 

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It is unreasonable to expect a large company to move to a sparsely populated, poor area. But if they can move to regional cities, that allows smaller towns to become commuter cities, which is one step.

 

I'm interested in call centres too. Why do call centres need to be in the major cities? (I'm not really sure how to refer to the towns I mean. In Australia, the capital city is where pretty much all the white collar jobs are. Even call centres, that surely could be located elsewhere. We have rural cities, but only one major city per state. I think this is not the case in the US, since I didn't even realise until a few years ago that Miami wasn't the capital of Florida.)

 

 

Call centers are often outsourced to India and similar countries. They don't need the workers to be located in the US at all. 

 

In the US, industries are often located in regional cities. Still, small towns may be too far to be commuter towns. Our town of 20,000 is the largest in a 100 mile radius. That  would be a pretty awful commute.

 

But compared to Australia, the US is much more decentralized. Most (all?) states have several larger cities and population centers. The capital is very often not the state's largest city.

Edited by regentrude
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What sort of small businesses are worth developing in small towns, that will bring people in?

 

My little town does ok because we are just off the freeway between the capital and the state border, so if you want non-servo food, it's a good place to stop. Senior citizen groups on day trips stop here too. They keep the cafes open. It's also an old people town, and they all eat at the bakery for something to do.

 

I don't shop much so it's hard for me to think about.

 

My SIL used to have a maternity clothes shop, and she said people came from two hours away. What other businesses could have that sort of effect?

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In the US, industries are often located in regional cities. Still, small towns may be too far to be commuter towns. Our town of 20,000 is the largest in a 100 mile radius. That  would be a pretty awful commute.

 

Why are the towns so far apart? The area is still farmland? Or wasteland no one could live on?

 

Here, an hour and a half commute is fairly normal, but 100 miles is more than that.

 

 

The US doesn't seem to have much public transport either. We have a reasonable regional train network. Not perfect, by any stretch, but it provides options.

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What sort of small businesses are worth developing in small towns, that will bring people in?

 

My little town does ok because we are just off the freeway between the capital and the state border, so if you want non-servo food, it's a good place to stop. Senior citizen groups on day trips stop here too. They keep the cafes open. It's also an old people town, and they all eat at the bakery for something to do.

 

I don't shop much so it's hard for me to think about.

 

My SIL used to have a maternity clothes shop, and she said people came from two hours away. What other businesses could have that sort of effect?

 

I cannot imagine retail that will bring people to an area. Retail to serve people who are already located in the area, yes, and that can be sustainable if it's stuff people in that area will want to buy. Spending four hours in the car just to shop for maternity wear seems crazy in times of the internet. 

 

People will come to an area as tourists. So, developing strong tourism with attractions, outdoor opportunities, shopping, dining and lodging, and cultural opportunities can be a way to get people into rural areas where they would not otherwise go. I cannot imagine for what other thing I would travel to a region. Certainly not just for retail opportunities. I don't know how well towns fare that have banked on outlet malls; one flourishing mall in my state is in a popular tourist destination.

 

Food is iffy. My town has pathetic dining options, because, despite the college, there are not enough people who would sustain high quality or ethnic restaurants. Fast food and "home style cooking" (shudder) thrive because that's what the locals want to eat. Interesting restaurants tend to get broke quickly. We have one Thai place and really hope they stay in business. Unless a town is a well known food mecca, people won't come for the food. The people who pass through will get off the interstate to eat, but that's it.

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My folks live in a small town.  It's about the same now as it was when they moved there 38 years ago.  There are people there with money - big farmers, doctors, lawyers, and owners of some of the businesses.  The cost of living is pretty low, so people of modest income are comfortable.

 

I'd say the majority of the employed work in one of the nearby cities - still pretty small cities by most standards, but having enough industries to employ a regional workforce.  Being located close enough to commute to those cities is probably why the town hasn't suffered too much from plant closures etc.  The town also happens to be the "county seat" where the county offices, court house, and jail are located.  Unlike some of the small towns around, it has local schools.  But no hospital.

 

Then there are some who find it worthwhile to drive an hour or so to the big city that you can see on a US map.  :)  Nowadays that is probably easier due to the internet - you can probably work from home some days.  There is a small airport just outside of town - I suppose that is used by rich business people who don't want to drive to their meetings.  :P

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I cannot imagine retail that will bring people to an area. Retail to serve people who are already located in the area, yes, and that can be sustainable if it's stuff people in that area will want to buy. Spending four hours in the car just to shop for maternity wear seems crazy in times of the internet. 

 

There are people who will make a special trip, an hour each way to save a few bob off their meds from the chemist warehouse rather than purchase from their local pharmacist. I don't know what to think about people like that.

 

People will travel three hours to the bee keeping supplies shop in the city. Proficient people buy online, but newbies don't.

 

People will travel for art, but it usually needs to be volunteer run or government funded.

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Why are the towns so far apart? The area is still farmland? Or wasteland no one could live on?

 

The US doesn't seem to have much public transport either. We have a reasonable regional train network. Not perfect, by any stretch, but it provides options.

 

Low population density. There are few people and a looooot of space.

There is farmland in some states, huge farms that need few people to work them. Or cow pastures and woods in others. In some states, there are barren deserts, extended prairies, mountains.

Here's a list of population densities for the various states:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_population_density

It's crowded on the coasts, but half the staes have fewer than 100 people per square mile.

 

Public transit exists near the coasts and between major cities. In small towns in the middle of the country, the population density is so low that it would not be economical; it won't be competetive with plane or car travel. There is a lot of room for improvement; it's ridiculous how slow the trains are even between major cities - they went faster with steam locomotives before the war. 

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The rural development I've seen is more to bring jobs and services to the people who have lost them.  But the government incentives I work with are for low-income areas.  That means you have to have people there in need to begin with.

 

Some of the investments are to bring better food or healthcare options etc.  Some are to develop tourist attractions, e.g., there is a poor rural area that is the historic birthplace of a genre of music, so they have developed a museum and theater to encourage tourism there.  Some are simply blue collar industries that will provide jobs.

 

It's true that our public mass transit doesn't generally serve remote towns, but there is usually some halfway decent option, such as buses and trains, for occasional or temporary arrangements.   [i.e. you drive or beg a ride to a bus stop, bus takes you to the city or to the Amtrak station...]

 

To be fair, it can take longer to commute from a NY suburb to a NY workplace than it takes to commute from a remote town to the nearest city.  :p

Edited by SKL
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The city where my university was was a big, thriving city with or without it, but the influx of students during the school year swelled the population by about 1/3.  That had a big effect on revenue for landlords, bookstores, restaurants, etc. in addition to increasing the demand for public transportation quite a bit.  Plus  there are other colleges in the city that are much smaller but that added up to some critical mass amount as well.  That's what I have always thought of as a 'college town'. 

 

Regarding your original question, one of the biggest issues in the US has been the consolidation of farms into big Ag farms, and mechanization of various aspects of farming.  This has led to population collapses in large areas of the rural Midwest, for instance.  I don't think that trend is going to be reversed, because the economics of 'small agriculture' are really, really brutal, and survival itself is quite iffy from one year to the next.  I do not know what the solution to that is, but it seems like most companies don't want to place factories in those areas, so people leave, in droves, to find other employment.  We have also experienced a really tough globalization process here, with a massive Rust Belt phenomenon effecting big areas.  And the Rust Belt is mostly in urban centers anyway--rural areas don't have enough labor to staff factories but have too much for the industrialized farming systems we have developed.  And no employer really wants to be the only game in town--that makes it hard and very painful to make jobs related business decisions.  So, you don't really see a whole lot of rural factory development.  I actually think there is some promise, though, in the need for people to run computerized server farms and warehouses for Big Box outlets in rural areas. 

 

Even Silicon Valley, which is absolutely thriving economically and jobswise, has lost most of its manufacturing.  So there is a very sharp split--jobs that are VERY low-skilled, hard work, and jobs that are really tough, with much less of an 'in between' and much less of a career advancement path than used to be the case here.

 

The other issue in rural areas is the sheer lack of availability of services.  You might have a long drive to the doctor, maybe it's a full day trip, and that's not a good recipe for aging in place.

 

 

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People will travel for art, but it usually needs to be volunteer run or government funded.

 

Oh yes, I would definitely travel for art - but bringing art into a small town with no history and background won't happen.

We have a summer community theatre that has been running for 30 years and brings in people, but these are people from other small rural towns in the area. You don't get people from the city where they can see professional theatre all the time.

And nobody makes money of art. Getting the people in will help the town if they spend the night and dine out and buy souvenirs. 

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To be fair, it can take longer to commute from a NY suburb to a NY workplace than it takes to commute from a remote town to the nearest city.  :p

 

That's why I didn't put any qualifiers in place when I said an hour and a half commute is fairly normal. Same deal here!

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I think towns can be like people. They have personalities and life cycles. It's not realistic to save every dying town. Sometimes you have to pay attention and jump ship before it's too late. It can be too big of a risk for a business to plop down in a out-of-the-way place and just hope that people will move there to work.

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As far as the rust belt / big city industries, it's true that the big big manufacturers were in/near the big cities, but they got a lot of their components / parts / materials from manufacturers in more remote towns.  As long as there were economical train/truck options, and a market, it made sense to locate industries around the region.  But when the market dried up due to outsourcing etc., the remote towns were that much more devastated in many cases.

 

ETA and I don't think they started their businesses in those towns expecting people to move there.  More it would have been employing people who had been farmers etc. whose services were no longer needed as much.

Edited by SKL
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A lot of main points have been addressed, I will just add that growing up in the dotted-with-small-towns Deep South, a "college town" was also regarded as a place of more cultural society - where one would find not only a conglomerate of educated people, but the associated art and music scene.

 

I would love if small towns could thrive. I'd love to have a walkable town center. But I imagine there would be drawbacks with lack of privacy, etc. Abd I agree with others above that the changed nature of commerce these days challenges the success storefront trade businesses. Kind of sad to drive cross country and pass through so many towns that you can just imagine as thriving communities a few decades years ago.

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Regarding your original question, one of the biggest issues in the US has been the consolidation of farms into big Ag farms, and mechanization of various aspects of farming.  This has led to population collapses in large areas of the rural Midwest, for instance.  I don't think that trend is going to be reversed, because the economics of 'small agriculture' are really, really brutal, and survival itself is quite iffy from one year to the next.

 

 I actually think there is some promise, though, in the need for people to run computerized server farms and warehouses for Big Box outlets in rural areas. 

 

There's a lot of work being done here in small scale agriculture to "boutique" it. Value adding is definitely necessary.

 

Computerised server farms? What's this?

 

 

We don't have a lot of manufacturing, but local councils can really get in the way of it. In our region, there was a company that wanted to manufacture farming equipment. Great location, right in the middle of the state, in a town with very little employment, about an hour away from one of the largest rural cities. The council wouldn't let co-operate. So the council over the river in the next state offered them not only the required permits, but land to use, and what do you know? Over the border they went.  :glare:

 

 

 

 

The other issue in rural areas is the sheer lack of availability of services.  You might have a long drive to the doctor, maybe it's a full day trip, and that's not a good recipe for aging in place.

 

There isn't population enough to support a doctor? Or is it some kind of insurance funding weirdness?

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I would love if small towns could thrive. I'd love to have a walkable town center. But I imagine there would be drawbacks with lack of privacy, etc. Abd I agree with others above that the changed nature of commerce these days challenges the success storefront trade businesses. Kind of sad to drive cross country and pass through so many towns that you can just imagine as thriving communities a few decades years ago.

 

How do you mean? Why can't you have a walkable town centre?

 

 

The only town in our region that doesn't have empty shops in the Main Street is home to a huge dairy processing plant. It certainly helps if someone in the town is on a decent wage.

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There isn't population enough to support a doctor? Or is it some kind of insurance funding weirdness?

 

Doctors, yes, but not all the specialists that the big cities offer.

 

My dad drives my mom to the big city when she has a doctor appointment.  One time she went to the nearby small city hospital, and it was a disaster.  Permanent hit to her quality of life.  Now the current issue is possible loss of sight - not something you play around with.  Of course the small-city hospital meets all the standards bla bla bla, but it doesn't have the best experts.

 

There's no hospital in my folks' small town, but for an emergency there is a hospital about 12 miles away, so not too bad.  But in a snowstorm, it might be a problem.

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There isn't population enough to support a doctor? Or is it some kind of insurance funding weirdness?

 

No, simply not enough people to support a specialist without extending the area so that travel distances are large. Have you looked at the population density link? If you have 40 people per square mile, you need a huge area to have enough people who might need a particular specialty of doctor to support that doctor. Which in turn means that few doctors will want to settle in rural areas.

Rural hospitals struggle terribly.

Edited by regentrude
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What sort of small businesses are worth developing in small towns, that will bring people in?

 

My little town does ok because we are just off the freeway between the capital and the state border, so if you want non-servo food, it's a good place to stop. Senior citizen groups on day trips stop here too. They keep the cafes open. It's also an old people town, and they all eat at the bakery for something to do.

 

I don't shop much so it's hard for me to think about.

 

My SIL used to have a maternity clothes shop, and she said people came from two hours away. What other businesses could have that sort of effect?

Special interest destination stores. Quilting stores. Model train stores. Special wood stores. Exotic car or racing sites.

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Oh yes, I would definitely travel for art - but bringing art into a small town with no history and background won't happen.

We have a summer community theatre that has been running for 30 years and brings in people, but these are people from other small rural towns in the area. You don't get people from the city where they can see professional theatre all the time.

And nobody makes money of art. Getting the people in will help the town if they spend the night and dine out and buy souvenirs. 

 

Yes, art is more of a catchment for cafes and restaurants in town than a money generator in its own right. How does one become an art town though? As far as I can tell, it requires the artists to have had well paying city jobs before hand, so they can afford the tree change.

 

 

How do festival go? They can help bring people in.

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No, simply not enough people to support a specialist without extending the area so that travel distances are large. Have you looked at the population density link? If you have 40 people per square mile, you need a huge area to have enough people who might need a particular specialty of doctor to support that doctor. Which in turn means that few doctors will want to settle in rural areas.

Rural hospitals struggle terribly.

 

Oh, okay. Specialists I understand. Even allied health professionals tend to work across multiple towns here.

 

Our town of 3000 has about half a dozen MDs though. 

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How do festival go? They can help bring people in.

 

Yes, for a few days anyway.  If you can get the word out that you're having a festival for something you're historically famous for.  My folks' town has a covered bridge festival among others ... there's a Grape Jamboree nearby, where I guess the main attraction is barefoot kids stomping grapes and making themselves all purple ... hey, whatever works.  :)

 

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How do you mean? Why can't you have a walkable town centre?

 

 

The only town in our region that doesn't have empty shops in the Main Street is home to a huge dairy processing plant. It certainly helps if someone in the town is on a decent wage.

I believe there are some areas of new development trying to regain the "town center" neighborhood sort of feel, but outside of urban sprawl, we have miles of suburbia. Not quite close enough to walk to things, safe bike routes (considering vehicle traffic) are not always available.

 

As for a small town lack of privacy, well, more people are apt to know what others are up to via the town grapevine, if everyone knows everyone. I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing in a healthy community, but some might not like that.

 

Rosie, have you ever been to the states?

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Why are the towns so far apart? The area is still farmland? Or wasteland no one could live on?

 

Here, an hour and a half commute is fairly normal, but 100 miles is more than that.

 

 

The US doesn't seem to have much public transport either. We have a reasonable regional train network. Not perfect, by any stretch, but it provides options.

It really depends on the area of the US. I grew up in IA, which is full of farms and small towns. There are no large areas without small towns. My hometown is only about 500 people and many people commute about 40 minutes to the nearby city for work, especially in the two major hospitals. Although the distance is somewhat long and weather can be an issue in the winter, traffic is never an issue, and people are willing to make the trade-off for low COL and small town life. There are still several businesses in the small town and a real sense of community. Public transportation isn't really an issue or concern because driving is just a normal part of life and everyone seems to manage with at least an old car and sharing rides when needed. Rural kids can get special permits at 14 to drive to and from school activities.

 

In my current state of OR, population is very concentrated in the west. In the eastern part of the state, there are counties with more land than some states and only a few thousand people. Much of the land is federal land and ranch land. Rural development and loss of jobs, especially in forest/timber industries is a real issue here. There is much more of a rural/urban divide. Tourism helps in some areas due to the amazing natural beauty of the state, but most jobs are seasonal and don't pay that well. A call center did really help one rural area and the owners are working with the governor to get and keep state government contracts. At least one mill is also investing in new technology to help with building all wood structures. The highest one to date is currently under construction in Portland. A regional votech/manufacturing center also just got legislative funding.

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Ok, for those who live in rural towns, what do you travel out of town for?

 

I travel out for very little, really. If I want printing done (more than a few pages,) I have to go to the print centre in the town 40mins away. I have to go elsewhere to buy clothes and shoes, not that I do much of that. I travel to the city for the ballet and opera. I don't travel for interesting food, but I'll take advantage if I'm there already!

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I believe there are some areas of new development trying to regain the "town center" neighborhood sort of feel, but outside of urban sprawl, we have miles of suburbia. Not quite close enough to walk to things, safe bike routes (considering vehicle traffic) are not always available.

 

 

Rosie, have you ever been to the states?

 

Only my own collection here. :D

 

No, I've not been to the US.

 

I hate suburbs. They seem to be the worst of both worlds, to me.

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No, simply not enough people to support a specialist without extending the area so that travel distances are large. Have you looked at the population density link? If you have 40 people per square mile, you need a huge area to have enough people who might need a particular specialty of doctor to support that doctor. Which in turn means that few doctors will want to settle in rural areas.

Rural hospitals struggle terribly.

Many states have programs by which they will fund a student through medical school in exchange for a number of years of service in a rural area. That's just for general practitioners.

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Yeah? That sort of thing is on the decline now. Even quilters buy online.

Not the ones that make a road trip out of it. There are many quilt shops that work together to make it so you travel to multiple shops to get all the pieces for a quilt. Only one shop sells a particular fabric. Or they have a quilt rendezvous in a scenic place and people gather to sew. Or a special instructor to run a class. People travel MILES to come to these things. Same for woodworkers and metalworkers and model train enthusiasts and drone and photography enthusiasts and birding enthusiasts. Key word is "enthusiasts." And scenic destination helps.

 

Anything where people have a shared interest...

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Only my own collection here. :D

 

No, I've not been to the US.

 

I hate suburbs. They seem to be the worst of both worlds, to me.

That's my view of suburbs, too. I could only see living in one if it got me very close to my job, and I could live in a very walkable part of the suburb. If I had to drive for everything, I would rather live in a small town.
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There are ebbs and flows in what kind of retail draws people though.

 

When I was a kid there was this very special dish that my grandparents bought during their travels and served us sometimes.

 

As a grown up I was tickled to learn that the place they bought it is only about an hour away from where I live.  So we would regularly go there for that dish, and send other people there, and such.  The restaurant that served it was the reason we went to that small town; the ONLY reason, but we grew to enjoy its other unique offerings--a few antique stores, a pretty decent yarn shop, a place that sold imports from Peru, a cute little French boutique.  The town had festivals and they were mobbed with people.  Also it was very popular as a motorcycle club destination--I'm not sure why.  So it was not industrial, there was a little local farming, but mostly it was a destination for unique shopping that was not horribly upscale.  Then all of the sudden, the style changed, people started going elsewhere, and in the last few years fully half of the antique shops have failed.  We continued to go, for *our* restaurant, but after being for sale for a long time someone finally got it, took all the character out of it, and stop making The Recipe or selling the jams that were the best I have ever had anywhere.  So now we don't go to the town anymore.

 

If the restaurant hadn't been ruined, we would still go, and we would try to support more local businesses than just that one, but there is no longer a reason to make the trip.  It's too bad, really.

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Ok, for those who live in rural towns, what do you travel out of town for?

 

I travel out for very little, really. If I want printing done (more than a few pages,) I have to go to the print centre in the town 40mins away. I have to go elsewhere to buy clothes and shoes, not that I do much of that. I travel to the city for the ballet and opera. I don't travel for interesting food, but I'll take advantage if I'm there already!

 

When my folks were getting around better, they would travel to the nearest cities for:

  • Most of their jobs.
  • The regional campus of a state university.
  • Their favorite restaurant.
  • To shop at a shopping mall / department store.
  • When a hospital or special medical services were needed.
  • For regional activities, like my dad's gun club.
  • To visit friends & relatives.

Nowadays, my folks are retired, they don't go out to eat, and they buy stuff online if it isn't available down the street.  Mostly they just go out for medical stuff.

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Not the ones that make a road trip out of it. There are many quilt shops that work together to make it so you travel to multiple shops to get all the pieces for a quilt. Only one shop sells a particular fabric. Or they have a quilt rendezvous in a scenic place and people gather to sew. Or a special instructor to run a class. People travel MILES to come to these things. Same for woodworkers and metalworkers and model train enthusiasts and drone and photography enthusiasts and birding enthusiasts. Key word is "enthusiasts." And scenic destination helps.

 

Anything where people have a shared interest...

 

Ah... There's an idea with some scope.

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Ok, for those who live in rural towns, what do you travel out of town for?

 

I travel out for very little, really. If I want printing done (more than a few pages,) I have to go to the print centre in the town 40mins away. I have to go elsewhere to buy clothes and shoes, not that I do much of that. I travel to the city for the ballet and opera. I don't travel for interesting food, but I'll take advantage if I'm there already!

We just moved to a place with more than 1,000 people. In the last 10 years, we've lived in more towns with less than 500, than in towns with a greater population. So I feel I have some experience, lol. We traveled out of town for everything except the pharmacy and the credit union and the post office. Oh, and Chinese food.
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I suppose the other side of "what do you leave town for?" is "If you are already out and about, what will you make an unscheduled stop for?"

Something where someone has a shared interest--and adds value.

 

My mom--it. Road trips were always lengthened when she thought she had found the best barbecue spot within a hundred miles.

 

I'm not completely talking through my hat. I have a friend who runs a quilt shop and am telling you how she has earned a living doing this. It won't work if you hate wuilting. You have to really love something that has an affiliated product to sell.

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Something I have seen pop up is workshop/bnb things, like a farm stay kind of. I know a place near you (I think) used to run weekend sourdough baking workshops - I think they're closed now.

A place like ceres in melb, that runs workshops could work. You need specialty though, and a nice place to stay.

 

We purposely bought between two major towns and less than 2 hrs from melb so we can get product to customers, and so our kids can get to unis.

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Ah... There's an idea with some scope.

Just as an idea: The item that sold the most at our last auction was a class on canning. So if you like canning, run a destination canning class with seasonal produce. People don't want canned goods: they want the experience. Same with quilting material vs experience. Etc.

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