I wanted to focus January on small towns, so I wanted to end this series with an action plan for small towns.
Allow me to clarify, though- a fresh coat of paint downtown does not fix the main problem. That is a short term fix for a big issue.
Again, allow me to explain the positives of small town life, at least from a millennial standpoint: family focus, community, opportunity for problem solving, and the chance to be noticed for this (read more about it here!).
Many good things.
However, small towns have become synonymous with lack- lack of opportunity and options, namely.
I think that there are five steps to putting small towns on the right track, and each can be tied back to millennials.
- Playing to our strengths.
- Millennial involvement
- Mentorship programs
- Shopping local
Playing to Our Strengths
There has been talk in our small town about the enormous impact having a liquor store in town would have. I agree, this would be money put back into the economy.
However, I don’t think this is the solution.
This is just a small example, but it leads into a pressing reality: as a small town, we need to face the fact that there are some things that simply fit better with big city culture.
Small town culture, however, is cool in its own right.
Case in point- small towns in Georgia have become a hot spot for filming movies. We bring something valuable to the table that society (beyond our county lines) is interested in.
Small towns are a hot bed for festivals and community gatherings. We should be playing into those strengths, and I think one of the best ways to do this is social media.
I think that something could be said for a social media team as a part of the city government- someone who is in charge of handling social media accounts.
A first step might be to form a social media campaign with a hashtag; for example, it might be along the lines of “I Love (insert small town here).”
Each week, the names of those who used this hashtag can be put into a jar, and a raffle could be held. Businesses could donate prizes for the contest winner.
Have themes for the hashtag each week. These themes could be things and events that go hand in hand with small towns, such as…
- Famous local dishes
- Mom and Pop stores
- Rec ball leagues
- School Systems
- Family Activities
- Farmers Markets
- People who contribute and better the town.
The world is digital now, so utilizing various social media platforms can be a method of spreading the news of a small town around.
Facebook is nice, but Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter could all be used as well. This would be a good way to utilize millennial involvement: use the skills they bring to the table.
This brings me to the next point, which is…
Small towns may be experiencing millennial flight, but, as a millennial, I can testify that some of us still inhabit these spaces.
And we need to step our game up when it comes to involvement.
This is such a convicting idea for me because I lack in involvement in my small town. It’s something I want to do, and I think it’s vital to growth.
Furthermore, should millennials get involved with the older generation, they can learn from the suggestions and mistakes the latter has to share.
From the Chamber of Commerce and city council teams to recreation department boards and city clubs, I think that there are a multitude of places that offer both a sense of community and an opportunity to serve.
For those established members of the community, I think one of the best ways to invest in your community, particularly this generation, is mentorship.
It is good for all when new businesses come into play in communities.
Go out of your way to help that new business owner who has no idea what he or she is doing, rather than shaking your head and fist at the generation as a whole.
Chances are, they don’t know any better!
Another idea- if you are someone who maybe has a business but no one to pass it down to, take on an apprentice.
Now understand me: don’t give them the business: that’s simply encouraging a “no work, but still eat” mentality.
Instead, train up a millennial in the way he or she should go. Teach them honest, good business practices, and when the time comes, allow them to buy you out.
If you live in rural America, you’ve seen the common Facebook post, “Who has the best broadband access for those ‘living in the country’?”
Let’s face it: we are living in the age of information. The old adage is now truer than ever: knowledge is power.
This is one of the major benefits of living in a large city. You know, without a shadow of a doubt, that there will be no issues with connectivity in the majority of areas here.
Consider all that Wi-Fi allows: college work, school work, telecommuting, communication, business transactions. All contribute to growth. Today, of the basic elements of life hinge on wi-fi access.
We can sit around all day waiting for small towns to grow, but unless we have the means to get to the growth, we simply cannot make this happen.
This again is something that I am convicted of. I am a bonafide cheapskate, so I know that, at times, it is cheaper to shop out of town.
However, this is a hole in the bag where the apples are falling out.
When you spend money in county, you make the difference in a very tangible, visible way. You can see your money work in a small town. You know where it goes and who it helps.
Of course, it’s your money, so you’re free to spend it as you deem necessary. However, if we do not keep money flowing in small towns, we can give up hope of them growing.
Amazon (not just a millennial addiction!) is a popular manner of fulfilling needs, but Jeff Bezos won’t miss your money.
Your local business owners, however, will.
We would do well to remember that communities cannot thrive on the backs of one generation.
Small growth requires teamwork across the generational lines.
Our recognition of this fact could be the difference between life and death for small towns everywhere.