"The kids are all leaving", "Out-migration is a problem", "There is a Brain Drain", "Rural areas are dying"...do any of these statements sound familiar?
This topic has been one discussed by political leaders, community and economic developers, Chamber's, educators and many for years. So is there truth to this topic? First, do ALL the kids go away, never to return? And, do the "kids" who do go away to college, really find that the grass "IS" greener in new pastures?
Let's take, for a moment, a look down memory lane to see what my generation has to say about this. For myself, I know my class of 23 high school seniors - the class of 1988 - in a very small central Nebraska community, were all eager to graduate and LEAVE our small town, which we perceived, lacked all opportunities. So how much validity is there to that statement? Or were there other social or environmental issues influencing this desire?
For me, more than anything, I think it was a desire to "find myself" and not have 'every neighbor snooping or other parent watching my every move'. I dated the same young man all through high school and he was two years older, so I was ready to get out into the world and "become an adult". Although, I also know then and even today, the first thing a person says to a young person in general conversation is "where are you going to college" or "where are you going after high school graduation". It is "implied" that you have to leave to become something else. For those that replied they will be staying to work on the family farm or to apprentice under a mechanic or other service-skilled laborer, we tended to look down on them, thinking they won't amount to what they could if they "go away and explore the opportunities".
Well, working in economic development, I have witnessed and participated in this conceptual focus to intentionally strive to "invite our kids back", or "find a way to keep them from leaving at all". This past week, I had the opportunity to hear about Ben Winchester, Research Fellow with the University of MN Extension, share his research from his "Rewriting the rural narrative" work.
Ben explained to those attending the National Rural Economic Developers Association conference that throughout the country rural communities are seeing an increase in populations 30 to 49 years old. And, when they are “out migrating” from larger communities, they are bringing their spouse and children aged 10 to 17 with them. He noted that "we are" losing the majority of the high school graduates to higher education communities -- which he defined as logical. College graduates are enjoying their freedoms in the larger communities as they begin their career pathways. Ben suggests, “Losing young people age 20-24 is the rule, not the exception!” But is that really bad news?
His research indicates metropolitan and micro-politan areas are losing population for the cohort group ages 30 to 49 because they are moving to less populated areas for "quality of life reasons". Based on the Buffalo Commons Research conducted by Randy Cantrell from the University of Nebraska, the main reasons for moving out of populated areas were completely unrelated to employment
. In fact, the reason this group is relocating to one of the greatest declining populated areas is: 1) slower pace of life, 2) greater sense of safety and 3) lower cost of housing. This trend for rural communities has been happening for many years without any concerted effort to recruit or attract them.
It is also worth noting this population group of people age 30-49 who are moving to the rural areas, generally leave their careers behind and are underemployed in their current situation. Yet they are happy because “Quality of Life” is their trump card. Minnesota and Nebraska statistics for this group show: 36% of these folks have lived in their rural location previously; 68% (MN) 40% (NE) have a bachelor’s degree; 67% (MN) 48% (NE) have household incomes over $50K; and 51% (MN) 43% (NE) have children in their household.
Studies by the Pew Research Center show that 51% of Americans would prefer to live in a rural area or small town. So how can political leaders, community and economic developers take advantage of this information? Should the topic of political and economic discussions revolve around "job creation", "recruiting big industry", "infrastructure development", and "youth retention efforts" or should we instead be focusing on what our current residents say makes our communities "feel good", the quality of place amenities for those who choose to stay or return?...And, might we also think ahead (long-range planning) to building and advancing the infrastructure that supports mobile technology to support entrepreneurship and/or tele-commuting?
Is it worth our time to help current businesses begin to transition their operations to other family members or key employees? Do educational institutions and employers providing experiential learning environments offer more opportunities for kids to better plan or gain skills to fill skilled labor jobs or for ongoing educational pursuits?All in all, our communities are made up of all the skills, knowledge, expertise, passion and connections we each bring to "our environments". So go out and learn what you can, but bring it back so grandma's and grandpa's can spend their retiring days spoiling and being present with their grand children!
To learn more about this topic, follow the work of Randy Cantrell
and Ben Winchester
Do you recognize this city skyline? I will be here in Austin, TX next week for the National Rural Economic Developers Association's Annual Conference. The theme for this year's event is Poised for Growth: Transforming Rural America. This is a topic I feel passionate about - growing rural America and improving the quality of life for all those who call a rural area, "home"!
I have had the distinct pleasure of working as the newsletter editor for this amazing group for nearly four years already! NREDA is the leading professional development resource for rural America.
I am not only excited to see all my development-professional friends again this year, but I am particularly interested in the sessions and discussions that will transpire as a result of the exceptional expertise presented by some outstanding speakers! I will be attending a session about REDL&G, Volunteer Boards, Workforce and Housing in Rural Markets, Managing Risk in Entrepreneurship & Economic Development along with some great keynote messages. Chris Kuehl will share Global Intelligence for Rural competitiveness; Judith Canales, is focusing on SMART Communities Getting Connected; a presentation on Smart Communities Initiative will be shared; a session on Social media; and Ben Winchester will share Rewriting the Rural Narrative (retention/attraction).
For fun, I will be visiting the Bullock Texas State Historical Museum and even taking a Walking Ghost Adventure Tour! I opted out of the Congress Bridge Bats Cruise (I would not sleep for days to see this many bats flying over head)!
It is always enjoyable to visit a new place and take in the sites, sounds and tastes of their culture. We are staying at the historic Driskill Hotel (see pic on right) in downtown Austin, so it ought to be an amazing week! Although I will be there in my official newsletter editor capacity, I am certain I will enjoy many laughs, learn a great deal, make new friends and meet new contacts and even relax and enjoy myself just a little. I'll share highlights from the week upon my return!
It is truly an honor to live in Nebraska City, the Home of Arbor Day and to share a love of trees, conservation and environmental stewardship with leaders and many local and regional citizens.
As Nebraskan's prepare to celebrate the 141st Arbor Day, April 26-28, 2013, we want to extend an invitation to join us in planting trees.Julius Sterling Morton, former Secretary of Agriculture under President Cleveland, is known as the father of today's international holiday to plant and celebrate trees. He resided in Nebraska City
in what is known today as Arbor Lodge Mansion
with his wife Caroline and four son's, Joy, Mark, Paul and Carl. Learn more about J. Sterling Morton, his legacy and the history of Arbor Day here
.The impact of planting trees goes well beyond beauty and habitat. Learn more about the benefits of trees here and consider planting trees in your yard and community.
We also want to extend an invitation for you to visit and celebrate Arbor Day right here in Nebraska City, Nebraska - Arbor Day's Hometown, Where Great Ideas Grow! Click here
and scroll down the page for a list of activities as well as the schedule of events.
Last week, my daughter and I went to see The Lorax
in 3-D. It was a great movie with so many lessons and messages. Being an advocate for environmental initiatives, I feel passionately that we all must be conscientious of the choices we make today that are and will continue to influence our world in the future. I realize there is no "one-fix", but it is instead a culimination of many efforts which just validates the vital necessity that we all "care enough" and "do something"...from "speaking for the trees" to asking not-so-popular questions and opening discussions that need to be further considered.
So is there an area in your life - that influences or impacts our world and environment - that you feel passionate? Do you care enough to step out and "do something"? As Dr. Seuss states in the book, The Lorax
, and as a final quote posted in the movie, "UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
As Arbor Day is around the corner, my family will be planting trees. How about you? If you are interested in learning more, starting a movement in your community or just straight up helping with this effort, visit Arbor Day Foundation
. See just how many ways you can advocate and "Speak for the Trees". I challenge you to care enough and make a difference today!
Use of Email and Personal Example
As stated by Gary Schroeder, “Today, email is the most popular form of business communications – far surpassing the telephone, conventional mail and fax in volume” (Schroeder, 2011, p 363, para1). I was reminded of this today after being out of my office for just one day. As I logged into the internet in my hotel and opening my Outlook, I soon realized that it was uploading more than 170 emails since I shut down and packed my computer this morning prior to leaving town. Of these, ninety-percent are direct communications requiring my response, while about ten-percent are a result of spam or my inclusion on a state-wide distribution list or from opt-in or opt-out strategies by organizations, blogs and newsletters that I subscribe to.
Having recently read the drawbacks of e-mail, Schroeder mentions that “researchers have found that most managers can deal with e-mail messages at an average rate of about five minutes per message,” (Schroeder, 2011, p 363, para 4). He goes on to estimate that once someone receives more than 20-30 a day, they are likely spending more than two hours just dealing with email. Therefore, I immediately began calculating the time I will spend yet tonight reading and responding to this massive number of communications in my inbox. And in realizing this epiphany, also realize that this number will double again tomorrow as my business trip will keep me away another day. Therefore, this issue of time consumption is an issue that hits home with me. Many days, I attempt to determine what has been accomplished, especially when I realize that very few of the tasks on my “to do” list have been completed. Targeted Email
In an effort to streamline the organization of inbound email communications for a variety of projects, I have established specific email addresses for each project and utilize the “rules” tool in Outlook to help automatically sort messages into specific project folders and sub-folders. This is one of the possible solutions Schroeder mentions as a way of thwarting spam, another issue that continues to gain momentum with more and more visibility and connections that companies make.
These issues also lead me to consider my email etiquette and strategies to target my emails to specific audiences and related to particular topics, subjects and sub-categories. Information provided by WebWise Media promotes double opt-in email marketing tools. They claim to offer “targeted permission-based opt-in email lists as well as localized zip code email services” at a price that is highly affordable (WebWise Media, para 1). They also suggest that using their email tool will provide you with 100% legal and spam-free lists based on individuals opting in and expressing they are interested in receiving information regarding specific subjects. Many businesses, organizations and people utilize email marketing/content management programs such as Constant Contact, iContact, Benchmark, MailChimp, AWeber, Vertical Response and many others for this specific purpose. Most require the opt-in selection by those one invites to receive emails. I have used a variety of these programs and I have done a comparison as each has their own key features and benefits. Using tools such as these is a good practice if you wish to maintain a positive reputation and to gain favor by followers because it gives them the option of controlling the type and amount of information they receive from you.
In planning and promoting events, I rely on multiple list services to disseminate my publicity in order to inform specific and targeted audiences of education and networking opportunities that maybe relevant to their field of work or interests. Unfortunately, relying on multiple list holders opens my messages up to being rejected or to upsetting some who did not intend to receive emails for information or topics they may not have originally agreed to receive. Thus, by default, they may be included in these communications and it has become more and more obvious that it is a concern for my reputation. I would like to purchase an email/content management system that allows the individuals included in these multiple lists to opt-in to receive emails directly from me. With the increase in email communications and given my feelings about my time, I feel opt-in is the best choice if given time to strategically organize and plan.
With regard to email etiquette, there are many tips available for people to consider. How someone responds or fails to respond leaves an impression with those awaiting responses. Some of the issues and tips that I came upon include the following:
- Respond to emails promptly and thoroughly, being sure to answer or address all questions or concerns within the message
- Be sure to educate your staff, volunteers, employees and advocates as to what can or cannot be shared
- Always include an email signature with contact information at the bottom of emails so responding or further contact can be easily located
- Be concise and to the point
- Be professional and always use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation
- Only attach necessary files
- Do not overuse the high-priority status
- Be selective on using “reply to all”
- Be sure to disclose mass email addresses by using the blind carbon copy rather than using “to”.
- Do not request deliver and read receipts unless necessary
- Use of all caps projects “yelling”
- Always read and reread messages before sending.
Additional tips can be viewed at http://emailreplies.com
In closing, it is important that one utilizes email as a selective and effective tool for communicating. If an opportunity exists to provide people the ability to opt-in, it should be the norm. Finally, following proper and professional email etiquette is essential in further strengthening and reinforcing your personal reputation. Before sending a message, stop, re-read it and ask yourself if you would respond to it. References:
AWeber Communications. (2012). Opt-in Email Marketing Tools. Retrieved February 8, 2012 from http://www.aweber.com
Benchmark email. (2012). Newsletter Marketing Tools For You. Retrieved February 8, 2012 from http://www.benchmarkemail.com
Constant Contact. (2012). Retrieved February 8, 2012 from http://www.constantcontact.com/index.jsp
iContact. (2012). Email and Social Media Marketing. Retrieved February 8, 2012 from http://www.icontact.com
Email Replies.com (n.a.). Email Etiquette. Retrieved February 8, 2011 from http://emailreplies.com
MailChimp. (2012). Easy Email Newsletters. Retrieved February 8, 2012 from http://mailchimp.com
Schneider, Gary P. (2011). Electronic Commerce, 9th Edition.
Boston, MA: Course Technology, Cengage Learning.
Vertical Marketing. (2012). Email Marketing And a Whole Lot More! Retrieved February 8, 2012 from http://www.verticalresponse.com
WebWise Media. (n.a.) Targeted Opt-In Email Marketing Service. Retrieved February 8, 2011 from http://www.webwisemedia.com/EmailMarketing.php
As I continue to work in the areas of community and economic development and also with a focus on environmental and efficiency practices, the term "sustainable" continues to emerge. I use the word "sustainable" and "sustainability" to define an over-arching holistic vision of everything from efficiency and profitability to transitional and sustaining activities that mold and change with the times...yet still rely on our dependence on nature. I have decided to pursue this concept much further...I personally intend to research "sustainable models" from communities to organizations. I hope to find "steps to become" or to identify key characteristics so that such can be developed. I cannot help but think it has to exist...somewhere. Someone has been working on this for years...question is where is it, how do I find it, is it applicable to the challenges of our "today" and for our "tomorrow". If you have resources to assist me in this journey of discovery and likely enlightenment, please share!
In my opinion, and as was with my "X-er" generation, it was expected/encouraged to leave our small communities and "go be successful"...giving us all the perception that we had to leave to
succeed. This is still a challenge that we face...although I think Millennials and Homelanders are and will continue to embrace relational and social values of rural living more than we give them credit for. If we as adults lead the change in OUR "assumed and projected" expectation and beliefs that today's youth are also leaving because local opportunities are limited, than we can begin to break throuh a somewhat self-inflicted delima.
Why do youth leave? Because...
1) We adults give them the perception it is what they need to do
2) They do not perceive there are opportunities locally
3) They do not feel like valuable - an adult has not asked them to return AND
4) They are not asked what they want to see in their communities to meets their current and future quality of life interests.
Community leaders, program directors, resource providers, parents, etc. either do 'for them' or 'to them' what we think they want. We
rarely "ask them" what they think or what would like.
If we are all doing all we can in our rural communities to: 1) ask youth what they think can improve their quality of life to; 2) seek their ideas in solving problem that currently or will influence them in the future to; 3) get them behind the doors of our businesses, organizations, and industries to let them "see & experience" the technology and opportunities they are being told don't exist to; 4) mentor and prepare them for their next journey to; 5) engage them and to; 6) let them know we value their unique gifts, interest and abilities...we will see them staying, returning or attracting growth!
How are we/will we do this?
Youth leadership, entrepreneurship and community engagement activities are and will help break this assumption. Coupled with the online offering of continuing education via most colleges/institutions, the acceptance of certifications and with the vast new types of technology-based opportunities - many yet to be developed and realized by many of these youth in these generations - the "need" to "have to go away" is not much of an obstacle any more.
At the same time, all of us who have gone away and returned recognize the added cultural, societal, economic, and experiental/life lessons we have acquired and brought home. So, if we intentionally all work together in our communities to create and sustain practices and programs to mentor and nurture relationships and plug youth into potential business transitional and career development opportunities, give them a mailbox or even just a continual message that we WANT them to stay or 'land' back home...we will see our attraction numbers increase.
These efforts may help youth overcome 'their perceived beliefs' that if they 'end up back home' that they failed. Alumni associations, churches, chambers, economic developers, community foundations, area educational opportunities, workforce & career developers, business/industry, concerned passionate adults & youth...have to work together to embrace the opportunity to strategically make this a priority and an 'every day' practice/purpose! #growourown
Today, I received the emailed, October issue of the GenTrends
newsletter from the Center for Generational Studies. They asked me to submit an article and this was such an honor! Below is the article they published per my submission. I have done research during my masters program based on generational diversity in the workplace as well as technologically-advanced entrepreneurial trends by Millennials. I personally the advances inspired by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniack with Apple and Charles Geschke with Adobe are just beginning to be realized. With Mobile Learning, There is
an App for That! With Mobile Learning, there is an App for That! Published in the October, 21, 2011, GenTrends e-Newsletter #132
Mobile devices are changing the way companies operate. Initially thought to be distractions, mobile devices are gaining attention for their capacity to provide workers access to just-in-time information and resources that not only improve worker productivity while on the job, but also helps to foster interactions that speed the transfer of knowledge, and improve overall learning.
Mobile apps are gaining favor as there are thousands of apps instantly available for virtually all job functions and careers. The benefit is their speed and portability. According to a Mashable study
, more than half of the 82% of U.S. adult cell phone users now use apps on their phones, and more than two-thirds of them use those apps regularly.
With the ability to download directly to SmartPhones or Tablets, mobile apps 1) improve performance by providing instant access to information and resource tools; 2) provide instant, direct-line communication that increases interactions between users and experts; 3) provide companies a cost-efficient process for uploading photos, videos or information files.
As techno-tolerant workers continue to enter the workforce, and seasoned workers adopt these tools, apps will compliment then begin to replace practices that include training manuals, charts, file storage systems, and IT support. How are companies using mobile apps?
- Structured Training: Training teams have the ability to poll, quiz or survey participants via an app during training sessions or team meetings. This can greatly increase retention, knowledge and skills.
- Hands-On Learning: Field workers benefit from instant access to "how to" manuals, demo videos, and internet search browsers for on-the-job training, or to expand their knowledge in real-time.
- Integrated Networks: The ability to connect with other employees through an intranet, internet or social networking is valuable. Customized apps create opportunities for companies to build channels to instantly transfer information, network with peers, and gain direct and instant feedback.
As an exercise, take a minute to Google search apps by job function or category, career classifications, or industry-specific resources. Search general "apps for (insert profession)" or specific "MAC apps for graphic designers". You'll be surprised by what you find. Companies embracing mobile apps will enhance individual learning and retention, improve on-the-job performance, and provide instant access to unlimited information and a higher level of global connectivity.To learn more from the generational diversity experts at the Center for Generational Studies, visit www.generationaldiversity.com.
Many people were in debate over whether or not they believe in global warming...but how can one not notice the changing length of seasons, increased earth temperatures that have been tracked and documented by scientists along with the changing chemicals measured in the environment. This along with the decrease in ice masses that are also documented and are visibly depleting seem to make it clear. Here is a nice video by National Geographic...what are your thoughts? http://bit.ly/80mHns
You will find that I am seeking to learn about the latest and upcoming advances, applications and impacts of renewable and sustainable energies, environmental products and services, and best practices. Note the categories below in the right column.