Is it too late for small-town America?

small-town America
Pictured is the downtown business district of Jamesport, Mo. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

The image of small-town America is the backbone of a lot of popular American culture, take the anthems of Bruce Springsteen, celebrating the blue-collar worker. But, much like the songs penned by The Boss himself, small-town America holds a stark undertone. And now, the image of small-town America appears to be dwindling. Naming no names (President Trump), but the ideals that small-town America propagated have appeared to bite the dust. As such, is small-town America gone for good? And can we only access it through rose tinted glasses?

The state of events

There is very much an urban/rural divide between Democrats and Republicans. It appears the whole reason Trump succeeded is that he was proclaiming to recapture jobs for these blue collar workers and make America what it once was. In some places, you’ll be lucky to see a fleet of trucks drive through. America appears to be a more urban nation now, and that the small communities need to adapt or be left languishing. But the fact is that a lot of Trump supporters have been left disappointed because he’s not bringing the jobs he’s promised. But, the state of events now highlights the fact that small-town America is struggling to make a name for itself. But as the American Dream has faded somewhat, and we’re seeing an influx of self-made business people going into some small-towns is this enough for the backbone of America to survive? It’s unsurprising that so many people left because there wasn’t work available. The right jobs faced a steady decline, and as such, people made the leap to the largest city nearby. So are people fleeing small-towns for a good reason? Or should people stay and fight, but whatever happens, people are feeling neglected in these rural areas.

Old vs. new

To truly get an appreciation of the attitudes of those in small-towns feeling the neglect, we’ve got to see if there’s anything in the fact that the small towns are actually being “left for dead”. When we look at the old perception of these small-towns, that was promoted to be the backbone of America, we can find ourselves yearning for the past because the modern world has become too much. And when someone like Trump proclaims that he’s going to bring jobs back to the small rural areas, the fact that those people who have been clinging onto the dying embers of the small-towns have not left like many of their contemporaries did find Trump to be their savior. Not only would this, but the fact that these residents, lacking in money, would, if they had Trump’s billions, be exactly as he is. This is a very interesting thing to point out, that the American Dream that has populated the small-towns always relates to the financial and material rewards. Is it hardly a surprise that Trump is where he is in that case?

When we look at those that have stayed in the small, provincial towns, and not moved, there is a fight on their hands. These towns populated by people with big dreams. And as the small businesses that are predominant in small towns are just struggling to stay afloat, but the reason they are staying there is so they can promote this image of small-town America as a cosmopolitan bedrock, where investment is being plowed into it and the companies that set up home there are doing this for the good of America. There are companies like LaserLight that promotes the small-town aspect of their business and this is a great way to drum up local support. The small-town attitude is something that endears. It’s people pulling together in spite of the elements and pushing forward. And it’s these towns that still embody the spirit of heartlands America. The modern small-town approach may be digital, and communication is comprehensive, but at the heart of these small-towns, lies a yearning to bring America into the modern age. This is the big issue with small-town America from an outsider’s perspective, is that it’s stuck in the past.

What does the future hold?

And far from them being places where the relics of America go to deteriorate, a lot of small towns are being invested in by numerous startups. The small-towns not too far away from Silicon Valley like Fresno are tackling the skills gap between young and old by upskilling them in computer coding techniques. It’s not just the computer side of things that are benefiting, but a lot of startups are actively seeking out other companies so that they can be support for those branching out into entrepreneurial endeavors. Because these companies need a small town in which to thrive, primarily because of the cheaper cost of living, it’s important that small-town America capitalizes on this. It becomes a major investment. And it’s happening all across America. Firms are providing support to small and medium-sized businesses paving the way for what modern America is, namely the self-made entrepreneur the can’t get a job anywhere, and as such, the natives of the small-towns that struggle to find jobs for so long are finding themselves being catered for and inspired by these entrepreneurs. And, it’s not about the youth contingent coming into the small towns. This is far from the case! As with the computer coding courses, they are provided to people of all ages, giving everybody an opportunity.

Small-town America, has it gone for good? Maybe it’s not gone “for good”, but it’s undergoing a transition period. And as such, these classic ideas of what small-town America used to entail, the quiet streets, the factory, and the camaraderie are now being replaced with a different kind. The factory is replaced with startup spaces, the camaraderie is all done online, and the quiet streets aren’t so quiet anymore. There are pockets of small-town America that can still seem stuck in the past, but maybe it’s not about going back to the blue-collar approach. Instead, embracing new digital approaches could be the one thing to reinvigorate small-town America.

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