This is the second of a many part series about my experiences in rural communities.

The first challenge which rural towns face is cash flow. Now, every community will claim this as an issue, but for small towns, it is particularly difficult. A government is run on taxes. Taxes, primarily, are based on the value of the property and the percentage of taxable sales. We will leave the taxable sales behind, for now; I will cover it in a few posts. Forgive me, for I about to speak in generalities. I realize each town is unique, and the following statements are not representative of all rural communities. They do, however, represent nearly every community I have worked with. The first issue when it comes to tax revenue it that property is undervalued. I realize this is market driven, but it still is a concern. It may just be an anecdote and not the norm, but it is an example from my past was when we helped someone with a downpayment for a $35,000 house. Two thousand one hundred square ft, ¾ acre lot, in town. Nothing wrong with the home, that was just the value. Funny enough, he pulled up to our offices in a $50,000 truck for financial assistance on a 35k house. That same town has had move in ready house sell for 25K at auction and currently has only two houses listed over 100k, a 4,200 square foot two-story from 1935 and a home built on 5 acres, 3 acres of which is a private pond. When your community relies on property tax to run and your property is assessed that low, it makes it difficult to make the improvements the city needs.

Next, solutions, because what kind of developer would I be if I just pointed out problems and drove away?

Rural Development

I am from a rural town. Being from a state as rural as Iowa, that says something about the size of my hometown. I lived in Texas for a while also. Their definition of rural was a town under 15,000. In my corner of Iowa, there was only one city of that size, and every other one was under 6,000. I started my economic development career serving a COUNTY of 5,000; the smallest town is 27 and the largest 1,500. I love rural towns, but the difficulties facing them are completely different than those of medium-sized and large cities. I always cringe a little when I see regional or county ED groups that also serve large cities (I realize the hypocrisy, Dallas County includes West Des Moines and Linden, 100,000+ population swing.) Usually, not always, that means smaller towns get less assistance because there isn’t enough time to help everyone, so ED professional (including our group) are pulled toward the activity that occurs in the cities. So, to keep me focused on our towns and maybe provide some insights I have had during my career, the next few blog posts with a focus on the unique issues and opportunities small towns face. If you get something, anything out of this, great. If you think it’s all garbage, that’s great too. Experiences influence our perspective and perspective influences our problem-solving. My experiences are entirely different than yours, so it is understandable that we may disagree. And, if we do, find me at the next conference or event and we can trade ideas


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