Through neglect or population decline, some small towns throughout America find themselves lagging behind in business, education and tourism. Rural communities can reinvent themselves by implementing arts programs or improving the business infrastructure in their community. In the late 2000s, small-town life has once again gained favor in the United States as an alternative to the stress and expense of large cities. Boomtown Institute, a national organization devoted to increasing industrial development in small towns, has helped rural towns to thrive since 2000, while many major media outlets, like Huffington Post, run features about the best small towns in America.
Revitalize the downtown area. Even a town of a few thousand residents has a main street with some major businesses. Repair and refurbish old buildings to make the district appealing to both residents and passersby driving through town. Offer retail stores and restaurants an incentive to move into the area via tax breaks or reduced rent. Turn the second story of old buildings into apartments or condominiums. Turn a dreary main street into a fashionable district with an Internet cafe, art gallery or other businesses that encourage socializing. This will bring tourists as well as locals to the downtown area and increase revenue.
Establish a community foundation. An organization run by local business owners, educators and politicians can collect funds from many sources and use them to further arts and business projects in the community. This gives the small town a centralized fund for improvement projects so all citizens can have a say in how to use it.
Market the town to prospective residents. Some small towns suffer as older residents retire or pass away unless skilled younger people move into the community. Set up a town website and list all its positive assets. Arrange interviews with regional media outlets so local officials can publicize the town’s livability to a wider audience. Gear the small town’s marketing campaign to attract families and professionals who will add to the community’s growth.
Attract tourists. Many picturesque small towns offer peace and quiet and a rustic atmosphere for big-city tourists. Capitalize on this by converting an old building or farmhouse into a bed-and-breakfast. Highlight recreational activities at local lakes, parks or beaches. Offer specials at local businesses for weekend or day-trip tourists.
Nurture the community’s young people. Give them a reason to stay in town after graduation. Mentor teenage artists or entrepreneurs and encourage them to use their hometown as a business base. Invite former graduates to teach at the local high school or elementary school.
- small town image by Jan Zoetekouw from Fotolia.com