Friday, August 10, 2007

Invite Them Back Home to Nebraska

George Garlick grew up in Quick, NE which is today a ghost town. But the lessons of hard work, honesty and integrity stuck with him and he never forgot his hometown in SW NE. Garlick founded Advanced Imaging Technologies in Richland, WA, a company that has developed into a leader in dense breast imaging technology.

Last year he returned home to nearby Curtis, NE (population 832) where he attended high school to give the town $1 million for a new community center. Last month he returned to set up a subsidiary company, Frontier Technologies, in the town along with a technology initiative focused upon meat inspection technology in conjunction with the local Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture. Garlick’s father worked as a janitor at the college when he was growing up.

The dean of the college, Dr. Weldon Sleight said, “Rural Nebraska is dying. We’ve got to come up with methods to build and revitalize these communities. One way is to go to those who have made great contributions to science and other professions and invite them back home.”

Curtis is the largest town in Frontier County, NE (population 2,729). The 272 students at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture help to drop the medium age in the town to 32.1 compared to the county average of 43.4 and a national average of 36.2. The county has lost a quarter of its population in the past 30 years and with a density of only 2.8 people/square mile (think about that for a minute) it is one of the most rural counties in the country.

If you aren’t reaching out to your former residents, you might be missing an opportunity to transform your community just as Curtis is doing.

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