The rise and fall of rural communities: Just one of many reasons how and why / by Annette Tait

The rise and fall of rural communities: Just one of many reasons how and why 

A good friend recently forwarded this article to Katy: “The secret to keeping some rural businesses alive”  by Chris Farrell (Forbes)  with the note, ‘It sounds like you!’

After reading it, we decided it does sound much like things we talk about.  And we have a few more thoughts add on keeping small/rural businesses alive.

Picture this: Somebody wants to purchase Bob the Builder’s business. That somebody has ideas. New ideas. Fresh ideas. Ideas to bring in more sales consistently. Ideas that build on the existing business.

Wouldn't it be a pity for this vibrant main street to deteriorate because the community was resistant to change?

Wouldn't it be a pity for this vibrant main street to deteriorate because the community was resistant to change?

Now for the zinger (which, sad to say, we’ve witnessed first-hand more than once): The good town folks get wind of this and start vociferously voicing their opinions on said -- gasp! -- changes. Everything from “You CAN’T change thaaaaaat XYZ….” “It’s ALWAYS been like XYZ,” and “It will NEVER workif you change XYZ.”

How do “they” KNOW? Are they experts? Or are they simply resistant to change, because they’re comfortable with what they have?

By saying making these negative comments, they imply -- whether they mean to or not -- that they won’t support the new business. Not monetarily, and not in spirit.

That is daunting to say the least.

This scene has been played out many times in small and rural communities, as well as in big cities, usually with the same result. The buyer who was so excited to have a business in YOUR town backs out and takes their dreams somewhere else. If they don’t take them somewhere else, they simply give up.

Either way the community loses. 

The reality is that, especially in a small town, when that one buyer who came forward decides against the venture, odds are good that building -- which could have continued as a viable business and contributor to the community -- will instead become an empty shell.

The longer it stands empty, the greater likelihood the building will fall into disrepair, discouraging other potential buyers. Plus, other folks who may have considered starting or buying a business see the town won’t support change, and they decide to look elsewhere as well.

And poor Bob the Builder gets unconsciously guilted into delaying well-deserved retirement

So maybe your town doesn't need a zebra tamer. But would you have believed it could be done if you hadn't seen it first?

So maybe your town doesn't need a zebra tamer. But would you have believed it could be done if you hadn't seen it first?

 

But what if those changes had been embraced? What a completely different ending the story has.  Now, not only does Bob the Builder get to retire, but he is happy knowing his legacy is still alive.  The townfolks are excited to still have tools, and even have opportunities for hands-on “how to” sessions, a wider selection, and/or even a new line of hobby or other equipment and supplies.

Or maybe Bob’s building gets completely transformed into a new type of business the community never even knew it wanted until it was open? Maybe Bob’s becomes Zane the Zebra Tamer and offers all sorts of fun and fanciful items or activities. It could even bring people in from outside the area, and boost the economy.

By embracing change in our rural communities, we foster entrepreneurial spirit, grow the tax base, set an example for others, and attract new families. That’s just a partial list of positive things!

But most important of all, we build community.