Q&A - December 1, 2017

This week’s question reminded me that small towns were once the lifeblood of this nation. Before the interstate highway system bypassed most small towns, there were thriving communities all over the United States. Unfortunately, many small towns are now struggling for their very existence. When their young people grow up, most of them move away, looking for more excitement and greater opportunities. As populations decline, businesses fail. Jobs are lost. Properties are vacated. Neighborhoods decline. Apathy and despair begin to set it. It’s a hard thing to watch, the withering away of a once strong and vibrant community, but we don’t have to sit idly by and allow it to happen here.

Q: How can we get more young adults and young families interested in living in Okmulgee?

It’s generally assumed that 20-somethings gravitate toward metropolitan areas more than they do small towns, but there’s a growing trend among this youthful population to reconsider the benefits of small town living. It will be up to us, however, to help sell the merits of small town living, if we hope to attract more young people here.

Consider this week’s column a call to action. I hereby deputize everyone who reads this column to become sales agents for Okmulgee. Like any good salesperson, you will need some persuasive selling points at the ready. You need to be able to explain the merits of living in a small town like Okmulgee.

This important topic will require more than one column entry to deal with properly. Please continue reading over the next few weeks as I explore different ways to categorize the benefits of living in a small town—this week, the social advantages…

  1. You will develop a stronger social circle. Not only do you naturally associate with the same groups of people simply out of proximity, you get to know the people you interact with each day. Service is more personable. You become friends with your restaurant servers, hairdressers, cashiers, and tellers.
  2. It’s a safer environment for you and your family. In a small town, it's safer for kids to play outside, to chain a bike in front of a coffee shop, or to leave your car windows cracked when you're parked in your driveway. Statistically, there will be less crime to worry about.
  3. It’s a good way to rediscover traditional values. Small towns tend to have certain principles and expectations for accepted behavior. People are generally more polite and respectful of others. Hometown values are ingrained.
  4. Small-town hospitality is a real thing. People in small towns tend to be more down-to-earth, humble, friendly, and unassuming. They are welcoming and willing to do whatever they can to offer a helping hand to a friend or a stranger.
  5. Everyone knows each other. Chances are, you will know your neighbors and maybe the entire block. The people who serve you in the community, like police officers, firefighters, bankers, grocers, post office workers, etc. are usually friends or neighbors who will know you by name.

If you have a comment or question on this topic, please direct it to osuit-president@okstate.edu