We often assume that creating jobs is the key to community vitality – and that people will follow the jobs. But there is more to it. Jobs and opportunity can also follow people.
I recently listened to a panel of young people talk about the things that have drawn them, or would draw them back to rural communities. They weren’t looking for a city in the country with shopping malls, corporate jobs, and trendy entertainment.
They dream of running their own businesses. Young panel members said they would accept considerably less income to be self-employed rather than work for someone else.
They want a welcoming atmosphere for newcomers – including diverse newcomers who look and think differently. And they want other young people to interact with.
What will bring young people back to our communities? First – ask them what they think, and listen to what they say. And give them the influence to help create the kind of communities in which they want to live and raise families.
Communities that provide opportunities for young people to participate in decision-making will not only be more successful in attracting and keeping young people – they will have more effective leadership.
We need to create a support structure for new businesses in our communities – including opportunities to get loans, training, and technical assistance. This can include beginning farmers. For example, a community that works with a group of young farmers to capture the growing opportunities in high value markets might establish a cluster of young farmers that work together, support each other, and draw peers.
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