Know your strengths
Author provides blueprint for economic success in rural America
Why do some communities thrive while others fail? Writer Jack Schultz takes a close look at small-town America as he searches for answers in Boomtown USA: The 7½ Keys to Big Success in Small Towns.
Schultz says that the time has never been riper for small communities to prosper. Telecommunication capabilities, lower operating costs for businesses, a willing labor force and quality-of-life issues such as less crime, shorter commutes and beautiful environs all set the stage for rural towns’ success.“But that prosperity doesn’t happen on its own,” Schultz warns. “It happens through solid and visionary leadership, having a ‘Can-Do’ attitude and exhibiting a willingness to take risks.” It also takes knowledge of your town’s strengths and resources, knowing how to leverage them, and building a brand.”
Schultz lays out seven (plus one half) keys to enjoying that prosperity in a highly engaging book that reads more like a good novel than a blueprint for economic success. From “Key #1: Adopt a Can-Do Attitude,” to “Key #7½: Embrace the Teeter-Totter Factor,” he takes readers through pages stuffed with examples.
prosperity doesn’t happen on its own
Several towns in the Pacific Northwest earn mention in Boomtown USA. Grants Pass is mentioned as a good example of a town that is leveraging its natural resources (Key #3). Astoria, which turned a mill clean-up project into a economic development opportunity, is featured in “Key #6: Maintain local control.” City officials worked with state agencies to clean up the downtown site, and then marketed it to a development group.
Schultz devotes many pages to Leavenworth, Wash., a logging town in the foothills of the Cascades. After the railroad left town in the 1960s, the town’s population dwindled to less than a thousand. A group of townspeople, searching for a way to keep their town alive, decided to promote a Bavarian theme to attract tourists. The Chikamin Hotel was transformed into the Hotel Edelweiss, and boarded-up buildings on Main Street were refurbished with Bavarian village facades. A variety of festivals added to the attraction of the nearby mountains, and today nearly two million visitors a year come to Leavenworth.
“People in towns like Leavenworth have the ability to quell the panic in their stomachs and assess their situation from a different perspective,” Schultz writes. “Even as the moving vans are pulling away, they see new opportunities behind the current challenges.”