I’ve been thinking about this, since my personal observations don’t mesh with stereotypes I keep hearing. You may have in your mind that small towns are dying and a pretty flat market. That may be changing, though, as people get more and more tired of traffic and the frenetic pace of life in cities.
Another factor I’ve observed that encourage people to relocate to more rural locations is being able to work from home. I’m a prime example of that. While I’m in a big city during the week, I’m able to spend half my time in my rural home, thanks to having the option and needed infrastructure to work from outside the office when I want to. My friend Mike, who just moved to Cameron a few months ago, is in the same position. This setup requires access to GOOD internet connections, though, and that has slowed down a lot of people who want to live in a small town our rural spot. Finally it’s becoming a priority for service providers, though, as they realize not everyone out in the boonies lives in a cabin with dirt floors and no electricity.
This isn’t just in Texas, a researcher in Minnesota recently found that people between 30-49 are moving back to their hometowns, for the reasons I was just suggesting:
Surveying Minnesota realtors and the new arrivals themselves, Winchester found that large numbers of these immigrants were professionals, who were moving to smaller towns to improve their quality of life. Thanks to some excellent broadband coverage across the region, people can work from home even if their head office lies far off elsewhere. And, as more people move, the towns bleed into each other, building a network of different occupations and levels of expertise. The new arrivals bring money and children to the area.
Source: Rural America rising: why professionals are moving to the countryside
Many rural residents have commuted to larger towns so they can enjoy a rural lifestyle in their off hours, which has been true for many years but is increasing from what I’ve deduced from talking to people in my volunteer work. These people bring money in! I know of at least one other person who commutes to either Temple or College Station (two larger towns in other counties), because while it may take 40 minutes to an hour to get there, you are on pleasant rural roads, not dealing with bumper-to-bumper traffic. There are days when commuting within the Austin metro area can take that long for many of my friends. I like my commute way better
What about Working Here?
Plus, certain kinds of businesses do well outside of large metropolitan areas, as long as they have ways to deliver their goods and services. There is often land for large facilities with low prices, and a less expensive labor force to develop that land. Here in Milam County, the July 22 update from our County Judge, Steve Young, noted that a west-coast packaging company is looking at this county to expand.
And, we still seem to be a place of interest for crypto-currency mining. One company is actually hiring now, and another one may be up and running by the end of the year, bringing hundreds of jobs to Milam County. That may not sound like much, but there are fewer than 30,000 people in the whole county.
As Ben Winchester, the researcher quoted in the article referred to above, notes, stereotypes and older research may discourage professionals to relocate to rural areas (you still read a lot about the “brain drain” out here). He points out that it is up to the towns themselves to change their image and point out what’s attractive about small towns and rural areas:
Winchester argued that, until rural towns start emphasising [sic] their positives, this trend won’t grow, and people won’t stay. “When you’ve got this dominant negative narrative, it is very difficult on both fronts both locally and nationally, to perceive that you can actually succeed in a small town,” he said.
And finally, thanks to the hard work of our city and county leaders, other businesses are showing up. Heck, even a new Dominoes Pizza is hiring (oh boy, now we will have Pizza Hut AND Dominoes, in addition to the Italian restaurant). This gives young people a reason to stay here.
In fact, Steve Young reported that the population in Milam County is actually increasing at this time. That turns around the trend of the past few decades, for sure. I’m going to be very interested in what the next census reveals about this area. It would be cool to break the 6,000 mark in population.
The Real Estate Market?
While it still takes a while to sell properties in town here (especially Rockdale, but also Cameron), it is taking less time. And a nice rural property doesn’t last long anymore. We don’t have hard numbers on this yet, but just from our work it’s becoming clear that homes in good shape in desirable locations are selling for more, while still being great bargains for those coming from places like Austin or other large Texas cities.
Next, we need to work on the much, much harder issue of how to raise the standard of living in the less desirable areas. That’s a much harder issue and may well take some time.Hermann says please like and share!