Out-migration of young people from the prairie is not a new phenomenon. Growing up here in the 80’s and 90’s, I can attest to the fact that North Dakota youth have been hearing about this problem going back at least 30 years. This past summer, Dante Chinni with The Wall Street Journal did a feature story perpetual rural challenge, but the current flavor of the story tastes a bit different than versions of the past.
It used to be that young people left small towns to pursue jobs. And if we wanted to keep them, we needed to create jobs. Well, it seems that’s less true today where many areas — Minot included — are ripe with opportunity. But still, many of our talented young people leave.
The full article is available with a WSJ subscription, but the quote that perhaps captured the mindset of those leaving:
“We have, like, five restaurants in town. Every time you go out, it’s like a reunion,” said 2017 grad John Hirl, who is heading to Drake University in the fall because he wants to live in Des Moines. “It’s all just very predictable.”
Perhaps there’s a takeaway inside that quote that speaks to how to retain our talent. Perhaps the challenge of small towns is building a culture that’s attractive to younger generations seeking new experiences.