Here are my top 10 trends for the agurbs® that I’ll be watching in 2006. I’ll be reporting on these and other trendsetters for small towns as I travel around the country to new cities and states.
1. Entrepreneurs—You can’t have enough of them. There are some interesting ones doing some incredible things in the agurbs®. Many new entrepreneurs will be setting up new businesses in 2006.
2. Arts & Culture—There are some great examples of a few small towns that are making themselves incredibly attractive for the development of artists. They are on the forefront of creating special “senses of place” in their communities.
3. Downtowns—Again, it’s creating that special “sense of place”, usually in the downtowns, that are driving some small towns to new heights. You can’t create that special historical feel in a new development or big box.
4. Recreational Land—It is becoming more important and valuable than rich agricultural land in many areas. If it has water or you can build a lake on it, it’s a goldmine! The first baby boomer turned 60 yesterday and this huge wave of retirees is looking for places where they can spread out.
5. Brain Banks—Increasingly, towns and regions are reaching out to their brain banks of alumni who grew up or went to school in the community. They are enticing them to move back with their unique skills and love for the town. Many are starting new businesses.
6. Regionalism—The more progressive places are realizing that artificial borders set by surveyors in the 19th Century are not how people are running businesses or deciding on where to live. They are focused more regionally in job creation and retention. This is a tough one for many towns to get out of because they’ve viewed their neighbors as competitors for too many years.
7. Clusters—It’s a lot like regionalism. The synergies of working together and developing businesses regionally are major waves of the future.
8. Community Foundations—The transfer of wealth that will take place in the next decade is unprecedented. Communities are realizing that if they can capture only 2% or 5% of that transfer, they can transform their communities. Older Community Foundations are doing some wonderful things to transform their towns that I hope to report to you.
9. Internet—This medium is finally having the impact that was predicted of it in the late 1990s. Virtually every town that I visit has one success story emerging of a business that is booming based upon the internet. A recent study showed that 750,000 Americans are making their livings on eBay, an industry that didn’t even exist a decade ago.
10. Homesourcing—It’s tied to broadband availability in rural America. Increasingly, companies are setting up call centers and outsourcing work to rural households.
It’s going to be a fun year. I hope that you enjoy my journey of reporting on my search for Boomtown. Let me know what you think or give me ideas of what to look for. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org