Rural Monitor: Choose Rural!

For far too long one of the only narratives about rural America has read something like this: YOUNG PEOPLE FLEE RURAL AMERICA. There's another story, however, about young people and professionals returning. Kevin Murphy reports for Reuters that in Kansas some folks are reversing the trend. Mike Bosch, 34, and his growing information technology company Reflective Group is part of this story. The company operates out of Baldwin City, Kansas, with a population of 4,515. Nearly all the company's 17 employees are under age 40.

Mike Bosch, part of a ''rural by choice'' movement, is pictured in Baldwin City, Kansas, April 24, 2013. Bosch kept his IT business instead of moving it to Dallas. Young people have been leaving rural America for decades, but Mike Bosch, 34, is happy to swim against the tide. | Credit: Reuters/Kevin Murphy

Murphy also reports about a social and business networking group called PowerUp for people ages 21 to 39, who are "rural by choice." Rural by choice is their tagline (and conveniently their web address www.RuralByChoice.com). I love the turn phrase and the attitude it encapsulates! In fact, I'd love a t-shirt with the slogan boldly printed across the chest. Too often rural living is thought of as something you're born into, stuck with, or need to escape from. Rural America is a place you can choose to both live and succeed. The benefits are many.

Organizations like PowerUp excite me with their enthusiasm and the support they offer. Moving to or starting a business in a rural area are situations filled with unknown. This means excitement and anxiety. Young people and entrepreuners need support, and groups like PowerUp offer this. There are many other resources available like the Center's own REAP program that can assist you in working toward success too. 

I want to mention that PowerUp wisely notes though that the PowerOns (people ages 40+) and the Sparks (ages under 21) are important resources in building vibrant rural communities too. Too frequently we forget to mention these groups, especially people over 40 and already living in rural America, in discussions of how to strengthen it. They are innovators too and have the benefit of a longer view.

Are you a young person considering a move to a rural area? Have already moved? A person who was born, bred, and always lived in rural areas? Are you a rural entrepreneur? Whatever your answer, I'd like to hear your story. Please feel free to email me at caseyf@cfra.org.