Results of a recent statewide survey of rural Minnesota residents suggests there's much to do in the area of economic development and job creation. At the same time, the potential doom and gloom is tempered by people who are generally upbeat about their communities being able to work together to solve problems.
The Blandin Foundation's RuralPulse survey highlighted how rural Minnesota residents - defined as people living in towns with under 35,000 population - have been hit by the recession. Jobs, of course, were their No. 1 concern, and a shocking 65 percent said their communities didn't have enough jobs that paid a wage able to support a household.
While the current job environment certainly affects that perception, the number of people expressing doubts about good jobs in rural Minnesota is troubling. Only 15 percent of respondents said the quality of life had gotten better in their community, while 37 percent said it has become worse.
Community leaders were also surveyed and one in four of them said they had considered moving from a rural area to a metropolitan area in search of quality employment. The survey suggests a potential brain drain for rural Minnesota as well.
So what can be done?
Rural communities need to start with improving and building on the assets they already possess. The survey showed an overwhelming 89 percent feel their community does a good job of controlling crime, serving the elderly and being good environmental stewards.
Many maintain hope about the future of their communities, with 87 percent saying they can help their communities be better places to live, and a large majority say people in their community work well together.
These are the assets of hope that can drive more concrete results like the creation of good jobs and improving community amenities.
- The Free Press of Mankato
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