Friday, September 11, 2020

Commentary: how to attract millennials to small towns

"Small towns across the country continue to struggle economically as they grapple with the lingering effects of recessions, aging populations, declines in industry and the economic fallout from the covid-19 pandemic. These communities need the renewed vitality that comes from an infusion of engaged newcomers. At the same time, a generation of young people are searching for ways to build meaningful lives and careers without the expensive price tag of urban life," Chris Shaffner writes for Route Fifty. "One way for small towns to reverse population declines and accompanying economic struggles is to attract millennials who are growing both their careers and families. Millennials can bring a diverse perspective to local governments, small businesses and other cornerstones of small-town life. Likewise, small communities could provide millennials opportunities to own homes and increase their savings, while enjoying the local culture."

Shaffner, an executive at CoBank, a national cooperative bank that serves rural areas, posits four major ways, along with examples, that small towns can attract Millennials:

  • Rural areas need broadband to appeal to remote-working Millennials, so state governments should offer funding and/or tax incentives to increase rural broadband connectivity.
  • State and local governments can offer individual and business incentives to bring in new residents, such as offers to pay off student loans, grants for individuals who agree to live in a rural area and work remotely, and tax incentives for businesses that expand into rural areas.
  • Create local programs that celebrate small-town life, especially those that encourage people who have moved away to move back to their hometowns.
  • Local governments can improve the economic landscape for existing businesses and lure in new ones with economic incentives. Programs to revitalize Main Street can also help increase community morale.

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