Tuesday, March 29, 2011 By Aaron Brown
This March 23 "Why are small towns dying?" conversation over at the Minnesota 20/20 site was good for a think, as was this Kate Searls pilot study for Minnesota Rural Partners, Inc. ("Estimating Rural and Urban Minnesota's interdependencies.")
If Searls is right, Minnesota small towns and big cities are interdependent to a large degree. Small towns handle industry and functions that cities cannot and produce a unique talent pool that positively affects cities. Cities, of course, provide money, goods and services that small towns can't generate on their own, along with potential future residents (perhaps in the form of jackass sons-in-law, as the trope would have it).
If the comments over at MN2020 are to be believed, small towns need to be more independent and open minded to change their fates. As it stands, small towns are becoming paralyzed by their dwindling residents' fears and inability to escape the past.
What do we do with a problem like this? What do we do when a couple dozen small towns comprise a region like the Iron Range, half of whom are actively bitching about the other half over something from the '70s?
We need to talk. We need to commit to a plan.