A few weeks ago we published the article To Go Back, We Have To Go Forward. We got some great reader feedback and I wanted to share some of it.
I believe the state and local governments should give tax incentives for people to relocate to rural areas. There is no way that the Atlanta traffic issues will ever be cured with more asphalt.
The technology is already here—with the large number of jobs that can be worked from home with computers, conference calls and teleconferences.
With the Atlanta metro area stretching over 60 miles north to south and over 40 miles east to west, there are a lot of smaller rural towns within an hour driving radius of that perimeter that could be host to an influx of workers taking advantage of any tax incentives offered.
Trouble is, do the small towns really want to lose their identity? When we moved to the Kennesaw/Acworth area back in ‘87 both towns were still sleepy small towns on the far outer edges of the city. Now the old timers complain about all the condos, apartments, and high density zoning of homes. The influx changes the small town character drastically and the local governments are always 25 years behind on the road and other infrastructure improvements needs from the increased population.
While I’d like to see some revival further away from Atlanta, there are great points here. We have to walk a tightrope that brings opportunity to small towns without ruining them. We’ve seen some really great places like Kennesaw absolutely destroyed by overdevelopment, overpopulation, sprawl, and greed. We can’t make that the model of renaissance.
Here’s an idea throw out Walmart, Lowe's, and Home Depot and you would see your towns thrive.
Although we can’t just evict big box commercial stores without cause, we do need to approach our economies with more than just price in mind. I was in Home Depot the other day (my local hardware was closed) and I talked to four employees before I found one who even know what hardware cloth was. Customer service, community oriented business practices, and quality are hallmarks of strong local businesses. The big box places are probably cheaper but overall value is more than just price.
I can’t tell you, Sam, how many artists would love those storefronts as studios, large and inexpensive by most standards, and with solar too, wow. Artists aren’t picky, and they help to revitalize places and see opportunities in places where others don’t. That’s what happened to Newburyport, the artists came after the downtown had been rescued and then over the decades other’s followed.
Our friend Mary is right. She has seen her hometown of Newburyport, Massachusetts awaken from the dead. If the conditions are created then artists, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs will come. They will set up shop and not only create commerce but also be inspired by their surroundings. Picturesque villages will spawn music, theatre, and visual arts. We’ve seen it happen in so many other places.
Yes, tax incentives can help, but so can rural broadband, community power, civic responsibility, a strong sense of place, and appropriate investment in infrastructure.
Ideas are good. Conversation is good. This is how change comes. This is how problems are solved. This is how challenges are overcome. People talk, they share ideas, they find common ground. They move forward. And it’s starting to look more and more like heading forward will help us find our way back to our past.
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Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire