by Dean Whittaker

Do small towns have a future? Have they outlived their economic, political or social purpose? How did these communities form and what contributes to their continued existence? These and many other questions come to mind as I ponder the plight of the small cities across the country. Many of these small communities are faced with an aging population, departing youth, and a struggling economy, yet others are prospering. What makes the difference is a question raised in Boom Town USA – the 71/2 Keys to Big Success in Small Towns by Jack Schultz. In his book Mr. Schultz reports on his study of 15,800 cities across the country to find the common thread that runs through those places that have succeeded and prospered where others are struggling to survive.

As Mr. Shultz points out, the key is to work together as a community to make the economic pie bigger for everyone rather than trying to take a larger piece at the expense of someone else within the town. Some would see this as the “world of abundance” verses the “world of scarcity” philosophy. In the former, through collaboration, more will be created for everyone as opposed to the latter view in which for me to have a bigger piece of the pie I must take yours.

Mr. Shultz goes on to say that a ready and willing labor force along with generally lower operating costs, improved communications and travel, and a unique quality of life have been responsible for a resurgence in many rural areas. Safety concerns following 9-11 have added to the renewed interest in smaller communities as well.

Other factors which Mr. Shultz cites as key are a “Can-Do Attitude,” vision, honesty, the ability to see beyond problems, courage, awareness of strengths and weaknesses, capable team-building, lack of egocentricity, intuition, focus, and a firm and relentless dedication to survive.

For those of you working in small communities or concerned about their future, Boomtown USA gives several examples of how small communities have learned to prosper in these changing times.