Building attractive communities

David Beurle, from Melbourne, Australia is considered to be one of the world’s leading experts in community development – particularly small communities. He was the keynote speaker at the Anchors Away conference in Iowa recently.

Beurle cited a phenomenon in which people from California and the East Coast, for example, are moving to the Midwest because of social and environmental issues. “The values shift I see in America is leaning toward family,” Beurle said. “Today people want to be able to make a change.”Beurle, who has provided consulting services for Emmetsburg and Hartley and Jackson, Minn., said that a community of even just 1,000 population has a potential annual expendable income of $15 million.

Smaller communities need to address synergy, vision and partnerships within their communities. One of the downsides of rural leadership programs, unfortunately, said Beurle, “is that people up and go.” Volunteer leaders may find themselves carrying the whole weight and experience “burn out”.Economic development requires new creativity where new ideas can flourish,” said Beurle. “I always come at it from why do you live here,” Beurle said. “People can connect the dots. You just need to show them how to connect the dots.”Community leaders need to make their communities attractive places to live and to provide jobs. And, due to people in urban areas feeling the need for a “sea change” in a more values-oriented culture, the development potential for rural America is not a matter of “if” but “when”.

And those communities that are ready to accommodate new people will be the first to succeed, Beurle said.”I think we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg in rural America,” Beurle said.

“Metropolitan urban America is becoming increasingly less attractive for people.”As a case in point, Beurle said he has found people in western North Dakota who migrated from California. Others migrated from the Minneapolis and Chicago areas to the rural Midwest.

I stubbornly stick to the notion “if you build it, they will come” which for me has traditionally meant jobs.

Beurle focuses on building welcoming and attractive communities.

Maybe he’s got a point there. Is Tracadie a warm and welcoming place? Do we embrace new people in Minto? How about Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton?

Maybe we should put a renewed focus on the ‘values’ and attractiveness of our communities and the promote that too the world.