It's Not All About Money

Many media outlets have reported Census data showing population shifts from rural areas to urban centers. The trend is more profound in some states than others and, certainly, not all rural communities are shrinking nor are all big cities growing. But, facts are facts.
What that data actually means and how we should respond is not so cut and dried, however. My community has lost population for at least 20 years.  Perhaps we won’t see population growth in the foreseeable future either. But I don’t feel like we’re dying. We face stern challenges, no doubt, but what American community – urban or rural – doesn’t?

We’ve added new mainstreet businesses, built new houses and refurbished old ones. We could use more of all of that, but have we taken enough time to assess where this should lead us? The prosperity of my rural community cannot be measured by simply asking if our population has grown. It isn’t all about growth. It’s not all about money either.

It’s about quality schools, economic opportunity, home ownership, employment, recreation, opportunities for advancement and much more. Before we decide that my community’s contraction equals decline and decay, we should measure those other attributes alongside measures of population, productivity and income.  Likewise, we should consider factors that are even more difficult to measure – civic participation, community cohesion, cultural activities and, I daresay, happiness.

I’m willing to work hard for the future of rural communities.  But I want to make those communities better, not just bigger.

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