Aug 13, 201912:57 PMInside Wisconsin
with Tom Still
As rural population falls, what can retain people or lure them back?
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Drawing employers to rural or small-town Wisconsin requires workers. According to a July 2019 feature in Site Selection magazine, some Wisconsin counties have an edge when it comes to workers with National Career Readiness Certificates through ACT. Site Selection ranked Wisconsin second among the 50 states for “rural and micropolitan” NCRCs as well as second for rural certificate holders. Wisconsin counties showing up on the Site Selection lists were Waupaca, Polk, Manitowoc, Dodge, and Walworth. Other workforce strategies are at play, often combining private and public resources.
Once a company hires workers, those people need places to live. In many rural communities, housing stocks are old or too far outside municipalities (and broadband) to attract younger workers. Working through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, some communities are banding together to upgrade housing.
Finally, rural America must combat its image of not being cool. Many educated young people think they won’t find others like themselves in rural settings, but that’s not necessarily so, based on a survey by the American Enterprise Institute. In fact, the survey found that a smaller percentage of educated rural residents wanted to move elsewhere than the percentage of urban residents who wanted to leave.
As the 1919 song lamented, “keeping ’em down on the farm” isn’t easy. In Wisconsin and elsewhere, strategies to do so may lead to a more balanced economy.
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