What can businesses learn from small towns?

A new book, Small Town Rules: How Big Brands and Small Businesses Can Prosper in a Connected Economy, examines the lessons that businesses can learn from small towns. Small Town Rules argues that the interconnectedness of a global, web-based system of commerce where, “your customers can talk to everyone else,” presents similar challenges and opportunities to those of a small town, where, it could be argued, everyone talks to everyone else, too.

Small Town Rules

The book is co-authored by Becky McCray and Barry Molz, two digital heavyweights who have used the interconnectedness of the web-based system of exchange to foster respective careers in rural small business advocacy and entrepreneurship. Together they have outlined seven rules that businesses can learn from small towns and shared them in this book.

Whether or not the seven lessons revealed in this new book are ground-shaking epiphanies or statements of common sense remains to be seen; it’s not available until April, although you can pre-order now on Amazon.com. However, the symbiotic relationship between small towns and businesses is one that resonates with us at Love Small Town America. What do you think a business could learn from your small town? Tell us in the comments.

If you can’t wait until April, Small Town Rules co-author, Becky McCray, will preview her new book at the Social Media Tulsa Conference March 15-16, 2012.

 

Rural Opportunity Zone Incentives Take Effect January 1, 2012

Would you like to move to a small town? How would you like to move to a small town and pay no income tax for 5 years and get help paying off your student loans? Well, who wouldn’t want that?! If you live outside the state of Kansas and are dying to call a small Kansas town “home”, you may qualify to take advantage of an ingenious new incentive program that is luring people to the heartland.

Small towns in Kansas have taken the Rural Opportunity Zones program and run with it. This program is a creative way to help people take advantage of the benefits of small town living while giving rural counties in Kansas an incentive to attract young professionals and families and reverse the rural brain drain. The program benefits took action as of January 1, 2012.

From the Kansas Department of Commerce: On April 11, 2011, Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law the Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZs) program. ROZs are designed to reverse dramatic population declines over the past decade in rural areas of Kansas. The program is a central component of a broader plan by the Brownback Administration to spur economic development and expand job growth in 50 counties around the state. The program took effect July 1, 2011.

With two attractive incentives, moving to a small town just got a lot more enticing. A state income tax exemption applies to individuals moving to an ROZ from outside the state. Forty-four of the fifty participating counties are offering a student loan forgiveness program as well that could net participants up to $15,000 off of their outstanding college loans.

Kansas reported a slight increase in population for the year 2011. By December, more than 150 people had already applied for the ROZ program, so we may see that number continue to rise. Most of the people who leave Kansas move to Texas and the Governor links this out-migration with income taxes. The idea is that ROZs offer an opportunity for Kansas to compete with states that offer more aggressive tax situations.

Gove County, home of the LSTA headquarters in Grainfield (and LSTA towns Park and Quinter), opted in to the ROZ program at the end of December and we are very excited about welcoming some new residents to our wonderful communities to enjoy small town living! The decision to participate in the ROZ means that Gove County (and all the other ROZ counties) are choosing to embrace change and take brave steps to a brighter future. It’s not an easy step – but we think it is a good one.

We hope we see more of these kinds of incentives: programs that support small towns, bring growth to rural areas, and give people the chance to create their own opportunities.

For more information on the program or to apply to move to a Rural Opportunity Zone, visit the Kansas Department of Commerce website.

ROZs-designated counties are Barber, Chautauqua, Cheyenne, Clark, Cloud, Comanche, Decatur, Edwards, Elk, Gove, Graham, Greeley, Greenwood, Hamilton, Harper, Hodgeman, Jewell, Kearny, Kingman, Kiowa, Lane, Lincoln, Logan, Marion, Mitchell, Morton, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Pawnee, Phillips, Pratt, Rawlins, Republic, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Scott, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Stafford, Stanton, Trego, Thomas, Wallace, Washington, Wichita, Wilson and Woodson

 

 

How Can Rural be Sustainable?

At Love Small Town America we are not afraid to say that we love small towns (it’s right there in our name!). We love all small towns. But the truth of the matter is that many of these small towns are in rural areas. In Kansas, for example, half of the population lives in 5 counties. The other half of the population lives in the remaining 100 counties; most of those are in cities or towns with fewer than 10,000 people. So, we keep our ears cocked to hear news that relates to rural life. A recent government report caught our attention. Last week we saw the following:

New Partnership for Sustainable Communities Report: Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities

The HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities and the USDA have released Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities, a report that discusses how the four agencies are collaborating to support rural communities. This publication highlights how small towns and rural places across the country are using federal resources to strengthen their economies, provide better quality of life to residents, and build on local assets such as traditional main streets, agricultural lands, and natural resources.  The report includes sections on how HUD, DOT, EPA, and USDA programs support environmentally and economically sustainable growth in rural places; performance measures rural communities can use to target their investments; and 12 case studies of rural communities using federal resources to achieve their development and economic goals. It also outlines steps the Partnership for Sustainable Communities is pursuing to support small towns and rural places.  Read the report here.  For more information on the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, please visit: http://www.sustainablecommunities.gov.

 

The Partnership for Sustainability developed six livability principles:

  • Provide more transportation choices.
  • Promote equitable, affordable housing.
  • Enhance economic competitiveness.
  • Support existing communities.
  • Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment.
  • Value communities and neighborhoods.
We can definitely appreciate the value behind these six principles: some of them guide our business even now. Are there other important issues this partnership overlooked? Love Small Town America works to address economic competitiveness in a big way, and we also think we promote affordable housing through our real-estate ads, support existing communities in a big way, and value communities and neighborhoods. There may be more we can do in the future to branch out into some of these other areas, perhaps enabling rural towns to better advocate for federal policies that are beneficial to small towns.

We’re curious to stay tuned and find out how this develops in the future. What do you think? How can rural be sustainable? And what can we do to help?

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