The population of rural America has changed significantly during the past 40 years. Counter to popular narrative, since 1970 there have been newcomers aged 30-49 moving into small towns, which positively impacts our social and economic structures. At the same time, there is a new urbanity found across the rural landscape that changes how we look at urban-rural interactions. The next 15-20 years appears to be a great opportunity for American small towns, as a once tight housing supply begins to open up through the changing residential preferences of the retiring baby boomer generation. Overall, as we look to the future,the implications of these changes are positive ones for all of our small towns and open country places. Rural communities in Martin County embrace the trend known as “Brain Gain.”
Senior Research Fellow at the University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Community Vitality, Benjamin Winchester conducts research on topics surrounding the theme of “rewriting the rural narrative” that are vital to rural America. This includes research on the “brain gain” into rural America as well as research on rural community leadership, specifically the community-wide requirements to “keep the town running” through the public and non-profit sector.
It seems the rural story has already been told. small towns keep getting smaller. Churches, clinics, businesses, and now post offices have closed their doors as the lucky few migrate out to the big cities. The deficit framework dominates how we discuss and envision our rural communities. However, the real story of rural America since 1970 is rich and diverse, with positive trends occurring under the radar.
The local “Brain Gain” project now known as Fairmont Area Life, based all of its efforts on Winchester’s research. In 2015, funding through a grant from Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation fueled an online and social media campaign, welcoming new residents and visitors and alumni outreach.
Mr. Winchester presented to the community in October of 2016. CLICK HERE to view presentation slides.