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June 30, 2010

Boom or bust for small towns?

Small towns have had a tough time in many parts of our state as well as in the country, but now some are expressing new optimism about the future of those small towns. What is this positive view based on?

Dr. Mike Walden, North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, responds:

"You are right ... about small towns. We look here in North Carolina, many of our small towns were based on traditional industries like textiles and furniture and, of course, those industries have downsized and that has hurt the small towns.

"There are people who are very optimistic about small towns. They see technology like the Internet as the savior for small towns because they say look with the Internet businesses, people can locate anywhere because they can get information instantly, if you will, over the Internet. So what the Internet does is really reduce the effect of space. And they argue that many of these small towns with great amenities, great outdoor elements, etc., can therefore attract more people and more businesses. So they look for small towns to turn around.

"But there is another side to this coin. There are those that say, 'No. No actually modern technology is going to increase the influence of big cities, because what modern technology does is allows someone -- allows a company -- to expand their ideas more rapidly across the globe and, therefore, you want to be in an area, a big city, where you can make the contacts to start that expansion.'

"So these folks say that contrary to the first theory, actually technology, the Internet, etc., is going to expand the influence of big cities to the detriment of small towns. Obviously we will have to see how this debate plays out."

Posted by deeshore at June 30, 2010 11:14 AM