Embracing change rather than resisting it

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.

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0 Responses to Embracing change rather than resisting it

  1. David:

    As always you raise valid points and the discussions of development and growth are, and always will be, hot button issues in rural areas. We saw it happen in the outlying areas of Washington, DC, while we lived there and in Nelson County south of Charlottesville.

    The issue all too often becomes one of need vs. greed. Floyd County needs to grow as part of its evolution into the future and that growth, if handled properly, can be positive. But when greed overrides need, that growth ruins the very reason that draws people to an area.

    Greed did not arrive with newcomers. The developer who is attempting to carve up the county into the smallest lots with the highest density is a homegrown product. On the other hand, some of the most thoughtful approaches to growth is coming from some who recently moved to the area.

    Promoting growth in a county with no zoning and few restrictions carries high risks. That’s why you have trailers with tires on the roof next to half-million dollar homes or salvage yards along the Crooked Road. That’s also why a 40-acre parcel of land can become either a beautiful, preserved area with one or two homes on it or a junkyard. It depends solely on who buys it and what they want to do with it.

    However, it is presumptive to think that good ideas and change can, or should, be the sole province of newcomers. Some of the best ideas for this county come from people whose roots go back many generations and wisdom is not confined to those with birth certificates from somewhere else.

    I also worry that Floyd is placing too much dependence on the artistic community as an economic model. Yes, we have a growing and — in some ways — vibrant art community but it is not the economic miracle that some hoped it would become nor is it likely to reach that point soon. Few artists or musicians here make a living solely on their craft. They depend on other sources of income or, like us, came to the county with nest eggs.

    Let’s avoid making this an “us” versus “them” scenario. Native Floyd Countians need to recognize that new residents have much to offer but, in kind, the new residents also must recognize that folks around here are pretty darn smart because their mamas drowned the dumb ones.

  2. Dave says:

    I like change, in fact I look forward to it. But the kind of change we’re talking about here is population growth and replacing nature with landscaping and cement and I don’t look forward to that.
    Can some development increase the quality of life in an area? Definatly. But unfortuantly greed will almost always win out over need.
    In the “development” where we live I have seen five new homes built in the 18 months since we moved here. Seeing new construction along the Parkway is not unusual.
    When I grew up on Sunset Beach in Florida most of the people who lived there were either tradespeople or fishermen and jobs were scarce. They literally “paved paradise and put up a parking lot”. Now jobs in that area are plentyfull and so are the people. In fact people are leaving because they can no longer afford to live there. Development went crazy.
    It would be nice not to have to drive the 10 miles to Meadows of Dan for a loaf of bread. It would be nice to have more employment opportunities. Cable TV and high speed internet would be welcome. But if it comes at the cost of replacing the remarkable natural views we now enjoy with a series of Mcmansions I would prefer it remain as it is.
    I thought the waters and air would always be clean and my dog could run on in the surf as I enjoyed a beer while combing the beach. I was wrong and I moved to the mountains.
    Can the same thing happen here? Definatly.

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