Last week, I attended the Texas Midwest Community Network’s annual seminar for newly elected local officials. Several times, attendees asked about economic development. How do we bring business to our towns? Texas is booming. Our statewide leaders constantly boast about job creation and economic growth. Why aren’t our rural communities benefiting? These are questions that all community leaders should think about. Several speakers emphasized the importance of having a plan and pursuing that plan.
As I’ve written before, too much “rural” talk in our national conversation is trendy, patronizing, and self-serving. We also lack rural voices from “out here.” The rural communities of Appalachia, the Midwest, and West of the 98th Meridian have similarities, but they also have distinct concerns as well. Each of those voices needs to be heard, not homogenized as one “rural” voice for political speeches and sound bytes on cable news.
This week on the podcast we’re in Pawhuska, Oklahoma (pop. 3,377) with Steven and Tiffany Poe, owners of The Grandview Inn. Steven and Tiffany are sharing how a homeschool group connection introduced them to Ree Drummond — who we all know as The Pioneer Woman — which led to them moving to Pawhuska, and how they now have their own piece of Drummond history at the Inn.
I’ve heard for years that the Texas Cowboy Rodeo was slowly dying. I’ve also heard for years that rural communities are slowly dying. There are supposedly better entertainment options in 2019 than a “danged ol’ rodeo.” There are better places to live in 2019 than a dusty small town. Right? Isn’t that what we’re told? Isn’t that logical? Our communities might survive, but they’ll never be what they once were. Or is that true after all?
As I’ve grown over the years, I’ve learned the importance of support for events. It’s not about supporting the underlying event as much as it’s about supporting the community that benefits from that event. A man may not care about a rodeo, but the Texas Cowboy Reunion will drive thousands of visitors into town over a four day period and boost the economy like no other four-day period in the year. You don’t even have to know the difference between a shotgun and a rifle to recognize that your hunting economy should be supported.
We road tripped to Prairie Grove, Arkansas (pop. 4,380) for this week’s podcast with Zack and Laura Kraus, creators and owners of Flamingo Springs Trailer Resort. Zack and Laura are sharing how they decided to quit their multiple jobs in LA, sell their stuff, and ultimately move to Arkansas and open a trailer resort that really is as awesome as it sounds.
In life, adversity is the rule, not the exception. No matter what community revitalization project we undertake, adversity WILL happen. High-dollar electronic equipment fails. People get busy and don’t give maximum effort to a group. Cleanup days have a lackluster turnout. New businesses struggled to find a footing. We get exhausted and struggle with our own motivation. But if turning around a rural community was easy, none of our communities would need our energy and our ideas.
This week on the podcast we’re in Bedford, Iowa (pop. 1,440) with Sandy Schubert of Hedgie’s Books, Toys, and More. Sandy and her husband moved to Bedford a little over four years ago. From taking a chance on a new town, to the success of her store, to the way this community has embraced her and her husband, you’ll love hearing Sandy’s story and how this move was so right, in so many ways.
My passion in life is revitalizing Stamford and seeing other rural communities have the same experience. But we should be honest about these latent divisions, so that when our community DOES take off, people don’t get left behind. If Stamford prospers and the population grows, but only part of the town benefits, have we really succeeded as a community?
This week on the podcast we’re with Natalie Kovarik and JaTanna Williams of Ranch Wives Beef Co., based out of their ranches in rural Nebraska and Montana. From their Montana roots to pharmacy school and now back to the ranch, you’ll love hearing about the ‘why’ behind Ranch Wives Beef Co. and the ins and outs of their partnership and how they make it all work.
The city pool is not just a random city service that I have fixated on. City pools, especially in rural communities, stand as something very meaningful. As we talk about revitalizing rural communities, the conversation inevitably involves “quality of life.” If a community wants to keep its current residents and attract new ones, the community must have amenities that make the community an enjoyable place to live. Moreover, these amenities should provide quality of life for everyone in the community, not just a partial segment.
As all citizens of a small town know, our local economies are dependent upon supporting one another – believing in one another. Our staff know this not only from the community banker perspective, but also from the small business owner perspective as they each have their own ventures on the side. The opportunities in our rural communities are plentiful, and it’s beautiful to see prosperity bloom as we believe in ourselves and one another!
The year was 2009. As I bounced on a small seat in the corner of a public transportation bus I saw an advertisement for The Salon Professional Academy. You see, I was attending a university in hopes to become something I wasn’t. It was there my life would be forever changed. My name is Aurilla — or Rilla, as most people in my hometown of Corning know me as, and this is my story.
We’re in Corning, Iowa (pop. 1,635) for the podcast this week with Anne Greenwalt of Carver’s Ridge. Anne is a fifth generation entrepreneur and is sharing how she and her husband Tyson started a boulder engraving business that has since grown into an amazing product line of handcrafted, personalized gifts. They recently moved the entire business to Anne’s hometown of Corning and are loving the small town life there - and Anne’s telling us all about it!
Located just four miles north of Corning, the traffic and the people that Lake Icaria brings through the Corning community helps sustain many of our local and main street businesses. For a community with such a small population we are blessed to have so much to offer! Grocery store, hardware stores, restaurants, and retail stores that will rival communities with a much larger population are thriving here due to the local community support and the support of visitors coming to our community.
"Don't fall in love with it too quickly, we don't know how much this costs," I told Jill when we first laid eyes on what would become Primrose Restaurant almost three years ago. I'm Joel Mahr, and my wife, Jill Fulton, and I are the co-owners of Primrose. We met almost 15 years ago. I was the city kid still trying to find a job I truly liked (let’s be honest, I was lost in the job world). Jill was the farm kid who had moved to the "big" city to find her dream job.
As I think of the war dead, I think that each of them were men and women of action. The freedom and liberty I mentioned? It does not exist spontaneously, created by some chemical reaction. It was created, preserved, and perpetuated by men and women of action. Many of these men and women gave their lives in full awareness of the flawed, imperfect nature of America, hoping that their sacrifice would lead to greater freedoms for more people in society. And they were right.
In the Summer of 2016, shortly before the birth of our second child, I broke the news to my wife, Allie, that I wanted to build a carwash in Corning. I’m not sure if it was hormonal delirium or sleep deprivation but she was 100 percent on board from day one. We both loved the idea of how this could enhance the community and surrounding area. Corning is such a unique place that has had so many experiences for our family.
If you travel through the rolling hills of Southwest Iowa, past the corn fields and beyond the bustle of the busy interstate, you may be surprised to discover a small community with a thriving entrepreneurial population and local personality to rival even the largest of cities. Located in the middle of the Omaha/Des Moines/Kansas City triangle, Corning, Iowa is a no-stoplight town overflowing with opportunity, relaxation, and fun.