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Thread: Are there some small towns that just can't be saved?

  1. #26
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Its funny you should mention that since our town is the hometown to one of Iowa's most successful businessmen. He has invested a little here and a little there, mostly at the school. But, its nothing like what he could do.

    To me it depends of the people as a whole. It need not be one big benefactor. I could be the a strong chamber group who is willing to put in some time to make things work. It really comes down to that in my mind.

    I am about to go back to court (again) on one of our projects that is being tied up by the CAVE crowd. It just gets old.

  2. #27

    Small Towns

    In many small towns, theissue is whether they actually are willing to be saved! The small town of 50 years ago needs to change and adapt, and many dont' want to make the necessary changes to become a part of teh future - they're stuck in teh past.

  3. #28
    Cyburbian gicarto's avatar
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    Grants in small towns

    I have been working on some grants for a couple of towns in Northwest Iowa. I'm wondering if there is a formula that determines which towns are awarded funding and if the towns in decline are disqualified. I don't suspect anything here but I am just trying to figure out how to write a grant for a declining town. Do you tell the granter that the town is declining and the grant will be used to mitigate the losses?
    Trying to get my grubby hands on as much stimulus money as I can.:D

  4. #29
    Quote Originally posted by planatlaw View post
    The APA Journal ran an article a couple of years ago called "Smart Decline" which talked about how regions and the nation as a whole needed to grasp the reality that some communities will not make it so the need to develop good policies in dealing with that reality was a necessity.
    Along these lines, I've always been interested in the Buffalo Commons concept: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Commons

  5. #30
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    There are a lot of ways to help a small town survive. These are things a planner can do if he or she can get some folks in town to get behind changes.

    Arts are a good start. We paid our arts alliance to do a summer performance series. They have since branched out to include two movie nights twice a month, open studios, and an arts center. In all, the arts alliance is doing nearly 70 downtown events a year. This effort started three years ago, so you can see how fast the change occurred. The "creative class" here is sort of gray -- but inventive in the same way that young creative folks are inventive. There are a lot of seasoned artists in town, and the alliance has helped bring them together. Our Friday Night Live performances bring 400 people per performance, and that's 5% of the city's population.

    We are taking several steps to get locals to start businesses, or, if they have an out of town business, to bring it here. That's progressing slower than the arts, but we are making some progress.

    I would like to see some co-op, owner run, or local stock businesses. We don't have a program for that. I would like to put a little bit of seed money into the idea but not too much. If they fail, you are left with nothing for the investment. But if they succeed, you have businesses where locals want to shop and will pay more than Wal Mart prices.

    Education is good. If your public school system is good, people will move to town for the schools. Education is also good for adults. In Scandanavia, there is almost continuous adult education. People learn the skills needed to change jobs along with technology, so folks aren't left with 40 year old job skills and no job. I would like to do that as well, but it's not happening yet.

    And also kids. It's amazing how many places have one person who does something amazing with kids -- a dance teacher, a drama instructor, a band leader, a coach, etc. Children can do amazing things when given a challenge and when they see their older peers doing something talented. Adults learn a lot when they support and teach kids in any pursuit. Your town will get to be known for its kazoo band or whatever it is that you do well with kids.

  6. #31
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Wulf9 View post
    There are a lot of ways to help a small town survive. These are things a planner can do if he or she can get some folks in town to get behind changes.

    Arts are a good start...

    We are taking several steps to get locals to start businesses, or, if they have an out of town business, to bring it here...

    Education is good. If your public school system is good, people will move to town for the schools. Education is also good for adults...

    And also kids...
    All of what you suggest is true for some communities. Unfortunately, these don't work in the ones that are dying. Arts are not going to save some little town in rural North Dakota, where nobody goes there or passes through, and it is a day's drive from any population. That town does not have the money to bring in the Rolling Stones for a concert, and nobody is going to come to see the local jug band play.

    The lack of people and geographic location are good reasons why business start-ups or business attraction are such a long shot. Again, who would go there to shop? Remember that there are still places in this country with a residential density of less than five people per square mile. Manufacturing would have to overcome long distances to get products to market, and highly technical businesses require a highly technical work force that does not want to live in western Oklahoma.

    Again, education is good. But for many of these places, the one or two room school house is still a reality. Build new schools? Hire outstanding teachers? These places don't only lack the money, they lack the students. It is not uncommon to see four or five kids per grade in places like this.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  7. #32
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    I am not suggesting that cities get the Rolling Stones or build new schools. My suggestion is a bootstrap approach. Fight back with anything you have at hand. Start with anything that is positive. If there's no positive, start with, take the least negative thing.

    As planners, we can think ahead from that standpoint. If we are wrong, the town will die. If we have good ideas but don't try, the town will die. If we are right and give it a try, the town may not die.

    Optimism abounds.

  8. #33
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hawkeye66 View post
    Its funny you should mention that since our town is the hometown to one of Iowa's most successful businessmen. He has invested a little here and a little there, mostly at the school. But, its nothing like what he could do.
    I am wondering if you could just "ask" the guy for more support. In the book Fundraising for Nonprofits: How to Build a Community Partnership, the author talks about one project she worked on where she went to a college and there was an entire building and some other stuff named for some wealthy individual. No information about him was to be found in their database concerning donors. He donated all this money and was kind of told "thanks" and then never heard from the university again. She was appalled to discover this: your biggest supporters are often the ones you can get more from if you treat them right. (And he had definitely not been treated right.)

    So I am wondering -- if you came up with a good idea, could you solicit support from this person? Maybe they would be willing to do more but just don't have any good ideas about what to do. Very successful people often are the type to not piss money away on some half-baked idea (which is part of why they are successful). And being successful in business doesn't automatically give one the skills necessary to figure out how to revive a town. But they might be receptive to getting behind a good proposal that came from elsewhere.

  9. #34
    Cyburbian silentvoice's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws View post
    Perhaps they cannot save themselves, but there is someone that can save them.
    question should really be: Is it "worth" saving? Or should we spend resources somewhere else where it can be benefit more people?

  10. #35
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    I am wondering if you could just "ask" the guy for more support.
    Well, it would be on his terms. His sister is a member of one of the "factions". He does not seem too interested in those sorts of projects.

  11. #36
    Quote Originally posted by silentvoice View post
    question should really be: Is it "worth" saving? Or should we spend resources somewhere else where it can be benefit more people?
    Who is we?

  12. #37
    Cyburbian DrumLineKid's avatar
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    BKM mentioned a Harper's novella about a "Collectible Dolls Mogul" buying up properties in Upstate New York. It is real. The Village of Cayuga on the East side of Cayuga Lake (one of the Fingerlakes) was invaded by the American Girl progenitor. She closed the only grocery store that side of Auburn. Created a 'quaint' (said way too expensive for local folk) Inn next door. It will survive. It is also the location of Wells College (one of the last Women's Colleges to go co-ed).

  13. #38
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    As an Iowa girl myself, I'm of the more darwinistic view point that many of these towns don't need to survive. I live in CR, my parents having moved here from small towns that had nothing to offer- no good jobs, no good schools, nothing to do. Whenever we go back to that small town in northwest Iowa, there seems to be many people there who have no discernable job- I'm not sure what they do to make a living. Point being, they are places where many people can't really develop their potential.
    Do you want to pet my monkey?

  14. #39
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM View post
    Since Iowa is not the East Coast, maybe you can find a philanthropic country music star?

    Heck, get Kevin Costner to build a baseball field!

    The truth is that only the town people, or a definate majority, can make the change. Without the desire of the people living there, all the planning and grant writing isn't going to save it. Sadly, some planners get hired by a high energy City Administrator and well meaning councilors, only to realize no one is interested in doing anything but a few folks. Swimming against the current isn't any fun...
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
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  15. #40
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    Editorial: Small towns, RIP? Some vanish, but some fight the tide
    http://www.sacbee.com/324/v-print/story/108194.html

    Small-town America is vanishing -- or not, depending on circumstances peculiar to certain places and more complex than one might think. While towns in the Great Plains continue to shrink or even disappear, elsewhere the death knell may be premature.

    In Georgia, the state transportation department decided to drop 519 hamlets from official state maps because they were too cluttered for a traveler to read. Yet one of those "disappeared" places has just bought six new street signs, and others' complaints have prodded the state to reconsider wiping them off the map.

    In Arizona, one of this country's fastest-growing states, developers are poised to break ground in a now-empty area west of Phoenix, envisioning a population of 1 million people within a generation.

    And in a small Kansas town whose population has roughly halved from a peak of 800, a young couple have converted an abandoned gas station into a corner grocery, sparing residents the need to drive 20 miles to buy food or almost anything else. Whether the store will survive is not clear.

    What's going on here? As always, Americans are adapting to demographic and economic change in ways that defy easy prediction. Young people still flee remote small towns for the city, often never to return except for occasional visits. Yet retirees are moving to some of those places in search of fresh air and affordable housing.

    On the fringe of major metropolitan regions, by contrast, onetime country villages have mushroomed into suburbs. Been to Elk Grove lately? And some remote places have been given a boost -- not without conflict in some cases -- by the arrival of wealthy urbanites in search of space and beauty. Montanans could tell you about that.

    Another trend, described by New York Times columnist David Brooks, is the gradual transformation of some forlorn suburbs into urban villages with most urban amenities -- pointing, one must hope, to at least some relief for commuters. And in Stapleton, Colo., near Denver, Brooks notes, there are $120,000 homes on the same block as $1 million mansions, a trend he calls "not anti-suburbia" but "go-go surprise growing up."

    Conversion of suburbs into cities is a hopeful sign that, unfortunately, doesn't solve the problems of bypassed places such as Poetry Tulip, Ga., or White City, Kan. But the revolution in communications technology and the ingenuity of Americans ever in search of opportunity keep alive the hope that, if you don't mind the hard weather, even the remotest places can be made livable and lived-in.
    What is the energy that is needed to keep a place vital ?
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
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  16. #41

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    Check with your local National Guard unit

    Your local national guard unit may be your ticket. It often takes a year or two to get everything ok'd but it would be well worth the wait. They will be looked at as a neutral group who are "doing thier job" and are helping out. There is a fairly large engineer unit in Iowa. The 224th Engineer Battalion recently returned from Iraq and may be interested in spending some of their federal dollars on a local project. Don't ask the 833rd though, it looks like they will be going back. I know what are going through. I spent a year over there and it looks like I may be going back this winter.
    Anyway, they may be source of help for upgrading your utilities, roads, or even a public building or space. You will likely get some good press as well.

    And then, think small. Sometimes a flower bed on the corner of Main & Broadway is all it takes to get people thinking about what the community can really do if they work together. I believe that no matter how different people think, quality of life is always near and dear to everyone's heart. Focus on these issues and take baby steps to makeing a difference.

    "You may be on the right track, but if you are sitting still, you will still get hit."
    -Will Rogers

    I am a young guy in a small community. Feel free to email me if you need any help or just want to talk to someone who is sometimes in the same situation.

    mrhaskellok@yahoo.com

    Sid

  17. #42
    Cyburbian Plus
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    BUMP -

    Is Oklahoma town better off dead ?
    Print headline from the Louisville Courier-Journal.
    Article link: http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/journal...s/16832951.htm

    HIGHLIGHTS:
    When the plans for the plant were announced in October, locals were ecstatic. But love turned quickly to loathing for a large group of residents who saw the plant as an attack on what was left of their struggling town.

    They fear that the bulk of the jobs will be too low-paying and attract immigrants who will overwhelm city services.

    Im not opposed to change, Im just opposed to takeover, says Don Ukens, a Hooker native who closed his Main Street TV and appliance shop in the 1990s.

    Rancher John Hairford is the unofficial leader of a group of 140 residents who oppose the plant, fearing it will lead to increased taxes, a crowded town and an influx of illegal immigrants.

    I have nothing against Latinos coming up here legally to work, Hairford says. What we dont need is the gangs; we dont want the criminals.
    Talk about NIMBY attitude.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  18. #43
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    BUMP -

    Is Oklahoma town better off dead ?
    Print headline from the Louisville Courier-Journal.
    Article link: http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/journal...s/16832951.htm

    HIGHLIGHTS:


    Talk about NIMBY attitude.
    Interesting article. Meat-packing plants and ethanol are just about hte only industries left for these rural places, at least for now. Bringing in something like a meat plant, with hundreds or thousands of jobs, is going to change the community. There is no way to fill those jobs from the rural population. Workers will come in from dozens of miles, and there will be new residents - many of them hispanic. The culture will change. Just look at Lexington, Nebraska. The downtown is full of second-hand clothing stores and small shops, all with signs in Spanish. The point? The downtown is full. No "yellowed newspaper in the windows" of its downtown shops. The Chevy and Ford Dealer are still there, as is the grocery store and the pharmacy and the lumber yard and the hardware store and so on. Will things stay the same if the plant does not open? No. More people will leave and more businesses will close. That is the choice for these towns. Status quo and going back to the way things used to be are not options.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  19. #44
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Interesting article. Meat-packing plants and ethanol are just about hte only industries left for these rural places, at least for now. Bringing in something like a meat plant, with hundreds or thousands of jobs, is going to change the community. There is no way to fill those jobs from the rural population. Workers will come in from dozens of miles, and there will be new residents - many of them hispanic. The culture will change. Just look at Lexington, Nebraska. The downtown is full of second-hand clothing stores and small shops, all with signs in Spanish. The point? The downtown is full. No "yellowed newspaper in the windows" of its downtown shops. The Chevy and Ford Dealer are still there, as is the grocery store and the pharmacy and the lumber yard and the hardware store and so on. Will things stay the same if the plant does not open? No. More people will leave and more businesses will close. That is the choice for these towns. Status quo and going back to the way things used to be are not options.
    And 100 or 150 years ago, when the small towns of the day had similar big new factories open up, they also had nearly identical influces of non-English speaking immigrants. It happened in this area - Appleton was heavily if not primarily German-speaking with its heavy industrialization in the late 19th Century. It is the ombiquitous story of economic growth and settlement in the USofA.

    And after a couple of generations, everyone was fully assimilated into the English-speaking USA mainstream.

    Mike

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