Friday, May 11, 2012

Community Development

Today I came across this video about the important difference between roads and towns. At first glance, it didn't sound particularly compelling but it had a lot of views and I thought I'd check it out. Turns out, it was all about roads and towns and what each means for community development. I hadn't thought it that way before but the difference betweens roads and streets in this presentation is a road connects two places and a street is in a place. So roads are like highways and streets are smaller and found in towns. The presenter talks of his hometown of Brainerd, MN, only a few hours from my hometown, and how the streets have become more like roads. This transformation caused the main street, which used to be busy and bustling with people, to look much more deserted. The idea is to get back to fostering community development, and the presenter founded the Strong Towns organization to reflect this idea.

Listening to this reminded me of a couple sessions I attended a few weeks ago at the Wisconsin Ag Women's Summit. Sabrina Matteson, the Farm Bureau Director of Rural Affairs, presented sessions on community development focused on rural communities and I was able to attended a couple of those sessions. Community development isn't something I necessarily think of on a day to day basis, but it's helpful to have a good reminder of it once in a while and make conscious decisions to make our communities better. Of course, there was talk about youth leaving rural communities and I happen to be one of those youth that left a rural community. However, I hope to someday return to a rural area.

My hometown is small at a population of almost 500, but I can think of many ways that it invests in community development. They have your usual community organizations like the Lions, there's a nice town park, and the K-12 school is still thriving.. Certain businesses - like the hardware store - have closed while others like the cafe and grocery store have changed hands and closed and reopened a few times but are currently doing well. There's a few historic buildings, but there's also new businesses coming in, staying and creating jobs. These businesses have put their corporate headquarters in a tiny town and it allows for more opportunities for people to get good jobs in town rather than having to move away.

Quality of life relates a lot to community development and it's something I'll certainly think about more as I get more and more used to Madison and as I go back to my hometown.