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Discussion on: Remote work is our once-in-a-generation chance for rebalancing the economy

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Ryan Taylor

As someone who grew up in a rural area in the Midwest, I do think a tremendous amount of value has been left on the table, both in raw economic potential and untapped human potential, from under-investment. Rebalancing urban and rural populations is certainly something that can catalyze change, and I like that you detailed some things that local governments can do to attract economic migrants.

I want to raise a few more points that I think are worth considering - especially for those who have only lived in urban/suburban areas and are considering a change.

  1. Building business-tier broadband, coworking spaces, and other infrastructure will be important for drawing in businesses that increase the local tax base - but these improvements take time and involve a significant amount of bureaucracy. Therefore, it will take a number of years before the impact will be felt at a foundational level for the whole community. Unfortunately, I think this will create a more stark income inequality in these communities in the near-term (especially as real estate value increases and consumer prices lift).

Therefore, I think it's critical that businesses relocating to lower-cost areas take a long-term view of their new surroundings. Individuals and businesses should not wait for a starting signal from local governments to engage with their new communities.

One area where this is critical is early childhood education and access to resources. As a rural kid, I was about a decade behind some of my classmates in terms of home infrastructure. I was printing out Wikipedia articles at school so I could read them in the evenings. Despite our incredible access to information where most of the population lives (cities/metro areas/medium cities/towns), those of us living in more frontier-like areas have a much steeper hill to climb. Imagine the amount of human capital that would be available if every household had sufficient access to tech infrastructure...

Substance abuse, homelessness, and income security are significant issues that affect all of America (and most of the rest of the world, but I'm only qualified to speak about the US), and local governments have comparatively fewer resources to tackle these issues. While these issues may not seem related to a remote worker who is connecting back to the home base in [insert city here], they are intrinsically linked. Paying attention to local issues is an easy first step - engage with local media, journalism, community organizations, ecological restoration groups, etc. There are many ways to help, and most of these organizations could really use the help of professionals with access to wide networks of wealth.

  1. Frankly, rural areas and rural citizens are stereotyped in popular culture and in professional circles. There is a wide culture gap between urban and rural areas, and within both groups is a kaleidoscope of cultures, viewpoints, lifestyles, and perspectives. Considering the sudden effects that can happen from migrations (in this case, urban to less-urban), it's really critical that care is taken to understand the viewpoints of longtime residents so that communities can be built with a foundation of respect and mutual aid. You must be willing to suspend and reconsider pre-conceived political and cultural notions - just like I had to do when moving from farmland to the cityscape.

  2. Take the opportunity to join the local community and appreciate their contribution to our society. It's easy to forget where food and manufactured goods come from, or how a family trade adds resiliency to the wider economy. I recently heard a statistic: only 4% of American businesses bring more than $1MM in annual revenue - implying that the vast majority of businesses are small and medium sized. There is a tremendous amount of business acumen and intelligence that is simply not visible from the shiny, bustling cities. Use these services and engage with these entrepreneurs to help weave a tighter fabric.

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🦄N B🛡

As someone who grew up in a rural area in the Midwest, I do think a tremendous amount of value has been left on the table, both in raw economic potential and untapped human potential, from under-investment.

I grew up in the Midwest myself. It's a damn shame, and Middle America, and the good ideas, productivity, work ethic, honest people, and discipline that come with it are being starved in many ways.

My family and I got to watch as the manufacturing industry withered away.