The director of the Nebraska Rural Futures Institute says there’s no trick in developing the state’s small, rural towns and one of the biggest challenges is the community’s confidence level.
Charles Schroeder says perceptions about the years to come are the key to success — or failure.
“Eighty-five percent of people will agree they would like to see communities of 500 and fewer population survive and thrive going forward,” Schroeder says. “Over 65% say we would like to see all farm employment be based in small businesses in our communities. We would like to see rural communities continue to provide essential services for their region.”
Yet Schroeder says when people were asked if they believe those towns of 500 would still be around 20 years from now, only 35% said “yes.”
Schroeder says each community faces challenges and they vary from one town to the next. Issues include education, youth engagement, health care, transportation, housing, infrastructure and immigration.
He says one fundamental issue in a town’s growth and development is that its leaders have confidence in tomorrow.
“It wasn’t the four oldest, fattest, whitest-haired guys in town,” he says. “It was teachers and farmers and students. It was young people and old people, librarians, business leaders who had a vision for that community.”
Schroeder says small communities are the preferred incubator for the start-up of small businesses in Nebraska, which economists agree are the source of the vast majority of jobs in the U.S.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice