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Last Saturday I argued that “The Future is Rural.” With the rise in urban violence (that seems to turn up every presidential election year) and unsustainable living costs, coupled with the spread of telecommuting and improved Internet access, I predict that more and more Americans will flee to the countryside.
Even with the tide turning in favor of rural and small town life, local and county governments can take some proactive steps to attract residents. If the goal is to attract working families consisting of committed parents, localities need to get creative.
The usual approach to building up revenue in small towns is to spend lavishly on parks and sports fields. Large cities famously subsidize the NFL with billions in stadium construction, but small towns routinely fall into these construction boondoggles. The premise is that new softball fields will bring in summer travel leagues, generating local tourism dollars, which is always how new ball fields are sold to the public. Of course, the maintenance of these facilities are added into a locality’s annual budget, becoming recurring expenses, on top of the initial cost of production, which is often debt-financed.
Rather than spend public money on baseball diamonds and—even worse—soccer fields, small towns hoping to attract working families should use that money for something far more precious: children.
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