KC Belitz: Thankful in Nebraska

We are approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, and I will share today three quick reasons I think we can all be grateful this week.

First up, for all of us who live in Greater Nebraska, I would suggest we can be grateful for people who care about our hometowns. That was on full display last week as some 250 volunteers came together at Nebraska Community Foundation annual training. These people invested at least one, and in some cases three, days to learn and dream and prepare for the betterment of their community. These are people who will have their hometowns ready to participate in the coming rural renaissance.

And yes, there is a coming rural renaissance and we can be grateful (in advance) for that as well! As part of last week’s first-ever People Attraction Summit, our friend Ben Winchester, a rural sociologist from the University of Minnesota, provided ample evidence to support that prediction.

Here are a few bullet points:

  • 51% of Americans say they would prefer to live in a rural setting. Rural places in America do have a net gain in people who are 30–49 year-olds.
  • 75% of newcomers to rural small towns have NOT lived there before, so even those who aren’t alums of the local high school are finding value in our rural hometowns.
  • Of these newcomers, 75% have household incomes over $50,000, 47% have children in household and 21% telecommute.
  • 75% of rural homeowners are baby boomers and older, which means the change to younger households will happen in the Great Plains first
  • Of newcomers who feel their new hometown “is welcoming,” 86% say they are likely to live there in five years – they’re coming to stay!

Finally, we can also be grateful that Greater Nebraska is a place where partnership and collaboration continue to be the expectation. In this increasingly divisive world, I would submit that this is becoming a huge competitive advantage! It will allow us to get more done, dream bigger, and adapt to change more quickly.

Again, this advantage was on display at last week’s NCF events. We partnered with folks in north Omaha for an eye-opening and inspirational tour on Wednesday. There were numerous partners who gave their time Thursday to help educate community volunteers. And on Friday, more than 30 partners from University Extension, DOL, employers, housing agencies, and more volunteered to help lead and inform at the People Attraction Summit. It was phenomenal! Nebraska is a place where people still give to purposes for more than their own gain.

It’s Thanksgiving week, and we have much for which we can give thanks. I hope that spirit of gratitude infuses your family’s celebration this week! 

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