Friday, August 12, 2016

How one rural town is trying to reinvent itself through small businesses and retaining local youth

Rural towns that have lost agriculture, transportation and manufacturing jobs, and have seen a decline in population—especially the younger generation—need to reinvent themselves to survive, Kristofor Husted reports for NPR. One such town to do that is Brookfield, Mo. (Best Places map), a town of 4,400 that promotes its place on the American Genius Highway, an area where Walt Disney and Mark Twain grew up.

Vacant storefronts downtown are beginning to draw businesses, Husted writes. "Kristie and Drew Harper, who recently moved to Brookfield from Seattle, have bought into this bright, new vision for the town's future. The couple own a new bistro on Main Street. ... They also bought a small piece of land, which they're using to grow their own food for their family."

Becky Cleveland, the town's economic-development coordinator and a lifelong resident, said "encouraging business, education and health care leaders in Brookfield to collaborate and support each other is key," Husted writes. "The town lacks the health-care centers and assisted-living facilities to support the local aging population, for instance. So, town leaders are working together to push state legislators to provide broadband access for local health care providers, allowing the rural population to get care via tele-medicine."

At the same time "educators are working to retain their young people—and convince high-school students that it's fine to return home after college," Husted writes. "At graduation, these students receive DVD slideshows filled with photos from early grade school and scored with emotional music. A section of the slide show touts many of the graduates who have returned to this town. It ends with an 'unending invitation' from the entire community to make Brookfield their home again." (Read more)

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