Tag Archives: hometown

If We Pay Them, They Will Come

30 Apr

The 2020 US Census came out and showed how the American population is moving–to Texas, Montana, Colorado, and Oregon–so how does places that are losing people get them back? Simple–pay them!

In the same breath as hearing about the census results, the radio show I listen to mentioned this cool website called Make My Move. This is not an ad for this site, but I’m fascinated by this idea, especially because most of the towns listed are… not small. How do you convince new people to move to a place no one wants to go to?

This has been tried before. A lot of small towns in deep rural areas are offering free lots to anyone who wants to build on them. Although people are surveyed every year on the best places to live, and people talk about moving to… wherever your heart lies, they don’t do it. Why? Because once you get there, you need to be able to live. There is often no jobs in your field. So I might want to move to Lincoln, Kansas, but unless my job is remote (which it has been for a while), good luck paying for the new house when you don’t have a job.

That’s why this new website is so fascinating. These are not small towns. Places like Morgantown, WV–that’s the home of West Virginia University, it’s on the commuter rail to Washington, DC, it’s a beautiful place… yet they are offering $20,000 for people to move there, half in cash, half towards a house down payment. Benton Harbor, Michigan–a beautiful place–offers $15,000. Augusta, Maine–the capital of the state–same amount.

I would love to move to a lot of the places on this list. Montpelier, Vermont offers $13,000. Sure, come for the beauty, stay for the socialism, so maybe that makes a little more sense. Tulsa, Oklahoma though? A sizeable chunk of cash for people who want to move there. The smaller towns make more sense–Newton, Iowa; Bemidji, Minnesota–small college town and regional centers. But even Baltimore, Maryland offers $5,000!

The main obstacle to a lot of these offers is… hearing about the offer in the first place. The couple times in my life when I chose to live in a location, I never bothered checking to see if there were incentives, or… even having a job in hand before I moved. I had this crazy idea that I could afford to live as a substitute teacher in Portland, Maine about twenty years ago. I lived there for three months, during the winter, and absolutely loved it. Of course, I couldn’t afford it, and what I learned was that most poor folk lived in Lewistown for a couple years (much cheaper, 45 min commute) and worked in Portland. Moving to Cincinnati worked, but we had a good nest egg, and it didn’t take long to get some temp work to get us on our feet. But if I hadn’t gotten my good job after a year, we would have gone back to Illinois.

So… I’m not sure if these incentives work, but it might get people thinking about moving in the first place. Then thoughts might become the mover of our actions. But what do you think? Is this a good idea whose time has come? Or is this the last gasp of a failing city? Let me know in the comments below! Then move out to a new world with one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your moving budget, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. It’s worth the trip.

Double Vision in your Hometown

14 Aug

Going back to your hometown is like having double vision; you see things the way they are and the way they were at the same time. Now add wind storm damage, lack of power, a pandemic, and a funeral.

So I grew up in Morrison from 7 to 17, and lived off and on between college and jobs until I was 23. So it’s been twenty years away from this place; you don’t really appreciate it until you leave. I had such a case of wanderlust that it never occurred to me to stay. Now I wish I could go back, but time and circumstance make that very difficult… And may never happen.

But I got to show my son around and tell him all the fun stories about growing up here. Showed him the park, the old factory, my old homes… Actually found the school buildings open so a quick look at the high school, middle school, and elementary schools I went to was interesting. Most of them still have the 1960s shell, but have either been renovated or added on to. Even found a door open to the auditorium, so I could show him the massive (for the town) stage that we had… And that spoke to his little theater geek heart.

The funeral was nice and weird. Got to show Asher the church I grew up at which has a lot of really cool stuff and secret places. Even played some ping pong; the boy really wanted to go back. We were all masked in the sanctuary, we didn’t sing the hymns, but the preacher was great. Then we drove to the cemetery and interred her there. Then I dragged him around to visit my mom’s grave, my grandpa’s, my good friend’s, and my brother’s.

And that’s probably the reason I don’t come back very often. Most of the folks I knew are gone. When you move around as much as I did, you realize that it’s not the places you miss as much as the people. So when my mom died in 1993, followed by my brother is 1996, I had less and less incentive to return. My cousin still lives here, and he’s wonderful, but my uncles and aunts are spread out more. There’s always an excuse not to come.

The preacher said that she really didn’t know my grandma that well (he arrived 14 years ago and she became less and less talkative after grandpa died 12 years ago), but he knew who she was because he knew her kids and family. That was a great tribute. The family loves readily, laughs easily, helps out others, slow to anger, and slow to forgive… and that came all from my grandma. Not perfect, but wonderful, and with six children, fourteen grandchildren, and 22 great grandchildren to show for it.

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