Now here is a strategy for rural development: Hope that one of your small town’s alumni will return and pour money on you. Don’t want to wait? Start looking for alumni to bring back, organize general alumni events, and build relationships with people. At the same time, don’t forget your “never lefts,” the people who stayed and committed to your town. Focus on growing your own entrepreneurial successes right where you are.
Hilbert – This rural hamlet of 1,089 residents and no traffic lights was a decidedly sleepy place until Todd C. Thiel returned and began to globalize his hometown.
After a 10-year stint as an investment banker, Thiel moved back, acquired the town’s red-brick bank building – built in 1908 for the State Bank of Hilbert – and turned it into the international headquarters for his financial services group.
Thiel, 36, is one of a new breed of entrepreneurs who are able to gravitate toward rural venues because digital technology untethers companies from congested urban centers. If the American heartland is to survive in a global economy, it will need more like him, economists say.
Most of us aren’t billionaire investment bankers. That does not make our contributions to our rural small towns any less important. It is just as important that you do what you can for your community, whether that is employing just yourself or 100 other people.
It’s important for two reasons. Your work on your community benefits you, because you get to keep that small town lifestyle. It also benefits the community at large. You are giving back something to the other people around you.
Small biz survival is not just about moving into a small town and starting up a business. It is about connections, quality of life, people, and building relationships. Many of our rural development challenges are the same across the globe, from Namibia to Nebraska. We are all thinking about outmigration, education, skills, workforce, broadband and technology, and a dozen other challenges. It’s only through sharing that we can really move ahead. That’s why sharing is our mission.
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