I wrote an article about this topic a year ago and I want to apply what I wrote to the subject of rural development.
I live in a rural area where "development" is a subject that needs to be discussed carefully. It is a highly charged word for some and it is an unparalleled opportunity for others.
Depending on your point of view, development means putting a beautiful house on substantial acreage or cramming as many houses as possible on an acre.
Some people reading this weblog have difficulty distinguishing between the two, or possibly view any change to the landscape as being irreversibly destructive to the "way things were".
I take the viewpoint that change is an ongoing process that needs to be managed. A community or a county prospers to the extent that it uses its natural or cultural resources to support itself, generate income and protect itself from harmful influences.
Floyd used to have a manufacturing base which has departed to places with cheaper labor. Floyd has farms which are constantly evolving in order to remain viable in the face of shifting government subsidies, rising taxes and land costs, and lack of abundant labor. On the other hand, Floyd has a growing base of talented people who are an attraction for other talented people. Chris Shackelford, at right, has created a craft school at the Jacksonville Center that encourages students and artists to expand their abilities.
Floyd has a major resource in its undeveloped land which is becoming increasingly desirable as
population pressure forces upwardly mobile people to look to Southwest Virginia for places to raise their families.
People are going to move to Floyd County for the clean air, the rural and artistic environment, and the small town culture. At the same time, their arrival will slowly but surely cause changes in the county and these changes will improve or worsen conditions in the county depending on how these newcomers are treated.
These newcomers bring talent and money to the county and they are looking for the same things we were looking for when we came here; a sense of belonging, a sense of worth to the community, and a way to fit in to the community and contribute in a meaningful way.
The people in this county who are interested in improving conditions will do well to welcome the newcomers and put them to work on committees and in organizations which are making Floyd special.
Those who resist newcomers and seek to make them less important than people who have "always lived here" are missing the point. It is not how long your family has lived here, but what they have done in that time which makes them important. A vibrant and growing community, like a vibrant and growing organization, derives its power from the people who join it and contribute to it.
A growing community also provides opportunities for young people in the region so they don’t have to leave town to achieve financial or artistic success.
There is much more to this topic. I plan on revisiting it several times. Feel free to add your comments.