Tuesday, February 16, 2010

N.D. town's effort to attract residents flounders from small-town cliquishness, extreme isolation

We've often followed the attempts of rural communities to attract young families and cancel out the so-called rural brain drain, but not all families have enjoyed "going rural." One family, transplanted from Miami to small-town Hazelton, N.D., hoped to gain a much-needed rest from big-city stress but instead found a tight-knit community wary of outsiders, James MacPherson of The Associated Press reports. "It's been quite an experience, 50-50 at best," Michael Tristani, whose family is now looking to leave Hazelton, told MacPherson. "It hasn't been easy. No one really wants new people here."

"Rural communities across the Great Plains, fighting a decades-long population decline, are trying a variety of ways to attract outsiders," MacPherson writes. "But the Tristanis show how the efforts can fail even at a time when many people are desperate." The Hazelton Development Corp. began its campaign in 2005 by offering families up to two free lots and $20,000 toward home purchases and businesses free lots and up to $50,000 for coming to town. "Besides cash and free land, Hazelton had little else to offer except elbow room," MacPherson writes.

The community received inquiries from around the country, but only the Tristanis made the move. Their experience was complicated by threats of vandalism from owners of a competing local coffee shop. The loss of the Tirstanis' two children would hurt the local high school, which currently has 72 students, but the superintendent expects that number to fall to 31 in four years. Hazelton's extreme remoteness may be one factor in the failure of the program. A spokeswoman for the rural advocacy group Center for Rural Affairs told MacPherson rural land-incentives usually only work in communities within 30 minutes of a larger town. (Read more)

1 comment:

mrsowats2223 said...

This concept of "them" and "us" have been a reality for decades before we all began to use the economic development terms and looking at brain drain.

Isn't it time that we stop examining ways to buy new people and look a little more inward. Our victim attitude in my small town has reaced cosmic proportions. Waiting for the miracle has become a major pasttime.

My question relates to the attitude of protectionism. Are there any efforts out there to open the doors of conversation, doing inward examination, instituing sociology practices?

Please let me know of any readings, programs or discussions that continue to address this!