The Coming Resurgence of Rural America

This morning, a look at why there is a case to be made for many companies to “go rural” and get out of Big Cities.

This is not just about socialist-leaning cities like Seattle – where they want to go after Jeff Bezos for slowing down Amazon expansion due to city plans to slap a head tax on businesses.  It’s also about things like quality of life.  Yes, that includes under-funded pension liabilities, as well.

First, though, a few headlines and a look at a market which is heading down again this morning.  In our ChartPack: How far is downGot a seat belt?

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41 thoughts on “The Coming Resurgence of Rural America”

  1. George,
    I am going to have to disagree with you on rural vs. big cities..point by point.
    1.Traffic…Most top paying jobs are in the big cities…If I lived rural and worked urban, my commute time would be worse. Besides, big cities offer alternate modes of transportation that make it a lot less stressful. In less than 3 years we will all be driven by our self driving cars anyway. If I am stuck in traffic, I could be on the clock working or catching up on Dean Radins latest book, oblivious to the traffic ahead.
    2. Lower crime rates. I am not sure about that. Less crime in numbers, but not necessarily per capital…but where I originally come from in the Midwest, the small towns have some of the highest drug, meth, alcohol addictions in the country. Not exactly family friendly. Ask any law enforcement official where gangs have started to re-direct their “targets.”
    3.Better air quality…would agree with you there…although the Bay Area has its own built in air filter called Fog…Again, it depends on the type of rural you are talking about. Many agricultural areas have high concentrations of pesticide and herbicide particulates from crop dusting etc. The Central Valley of California..the largest agricultural region in the Western Hemisphere…has the highest concentration of asthma than anywhere in the country due to unhealthy air full of these chemicals.
    4.Lower food costs…absolutely not. Supply and demand. Big cities buy and transport in bulk. Not only do we have lower food costs..but better quality and more choices of groceries…Restaurant food may be more expensive though…I will give you that. But, we have yards and even rooftops being converted to garden spaces too. We can grow our own as well.
    5 and 6. Tax rates are relative to the services you get. Not all stadiums are paid for by the people. The SF Giants, the new Warriors arena that is still under construction and Niners used private money to build their stadiums. The
    Giants had a bank loan…which is totally paid off. Debt free and has been a huge money maker for the city and investors for a few years now.
    7. See roof top gardens
    8. Safe to walk. Maybe. It’s more fun to walk and socialize in a city. Walking with no one in sight in a rural area would be too creepy for me.
    9. Government intrusion. More people, more intrusion or protection or oversight…doesn’t bother me.
    10. Friendlier airports equal more expensive, and more connections. The Bay Area has 3 international airports. The competition and demand keeps costs down….and I can fly nonstop just about anywhere in the country with no connections…plus we have new regionals that offer direct flights to rural areas…non stop too.
    I too could go on. Big Cities rock!

    • Correction…#10 is small town airports equals more expensive and less connections. Big city has much more options worldwide. In 10 days my wife and I are flying to Rome non stop for under $700 round trip for a premium ticket. Non stop equals more vacation time…which in my book, is a ten times more valuable.

      • I use to fly from Buffalo, NY to San Francisco twice a year & never had a direct flight, either a stopover in Detroit or Washington, DC. Then, I lost more time driving from the airport to Novato in traffic. So if you are planning to visit Niagara Falls subtract a couple of hours from your vacation time.

      • “1.If I lived rural and worked urban, my commute time would be worse. ”
        I agree catching up on a book while you are stuck in traffic makes sense. the cost of fuel is affecting the average person and the community environment city or rural. since a twenty dollar increase in fuel expense reduces twenty dollars in spendable cash for other items.. this expense depending on how far you take it in the reverse pyramid only inflates prices eventually. you can’t have free energy but you cannot have runaway energy costs either.. both scenarios if you look at it from different perspectives will eventually shut down the economy. but the commute is usually shorter living in rural settings.. you usually hear about people living in suburban neighborhoods not in the city.. per say.. some do.. but most want to escape the gang infested neighborhoods. I perfer to sit out on a cool evening and drink a hot cup of coffee and read a book by the light of the sunset and sunrise. I know all my neighbors in a six block radius. I know who they are what their hobbies are. in a small community you can’t pass gas without it being common knoweledge.. a trip from out home to work is 37 miles.. a trip from one side of town (where the vast majority of the laboring class lives) to the other is 34 miles there is a difference in travel distances but the commute is shorter because of a lower traffic ..
        Lower crime rate.. that you have to calculate by population.. a city of four million will obviously have more crimes than a town of a couple hundred thousand. whether or not statistically the numbers are the same depends on the two cities in comparison. food being cheaper in the rural area’s there again this is dependent on where the warehouses are.. a banana grown in Brazil costs the warehouse the same no matter what to be delivered to the warehouse.. what the delivery costs are is dependent on travel expenses. and yes there may be a difference but one of my many hats in life was working grocery.. and I can tell you from experience that these grocery stores do their best to stay competitive to those in urban area’s. Each store has their loss leaders.. the two or four items down every isle that everyone buys just to get you to walk the isles. Usually the lower cost products ( that in many cases are produced by the same name brand companies) are placed above eye level or below eye level. as a consumer you have to do the math to see which is the better product for you of course..Tax rates. the tax rates may be comparitive you will get services no matter where you are in rural area’s you get a speedier response to an emergency.. ( we had one not that long ago.. response time was under ten minutes.. now compare that to a city.. some of the rural legends has it that you can be put on hold in an emergency with wait times of over an hour.. have you bought yourself a aed and medical kit for your home yet.. LOL..) going for a walk in rural america… I don’t know.. when you say not see anyone at all.. you must be thinking of the desert or some place in rural Mongolia. I don’t like to go for a walk where its nuts to butts the whole way.. give me a little space. almost always there are always people walking jogging or having a picnic if you want a quiet private walk then go really early in the morning.. going to the pub.. well I know here and there is different.. since around here.. I walk into the local tavern and I will walk out drunk.. So the tavern is out not because I bought enough drinks to get drunk. I hate anything that changes cognitive thinking.. but the people that associate there are not as stressed out and end up buying drinks….
        Drug use.. yes there are drug users everywhere.. statistics show one in three.. but if you go by statistics.. then the states that have legalized marijuana have had a drastic decrease in all crime, violent crime and domestic abuse. Auto accidents are on a decrease to those that have an addiction to is also have an addiction to just about everything else to the fatal accidents usually had alcohol as well.. Hard drug use has had a serious decrease and the tax coffers are full.. what Colorado made their whole years budget in a month or was it six weeks..
        roof top gardens.. I commend you for having one.. this is something I have been promoting for a long long time.. get rid of all the concrete and replace it with green garden growth.

        some people love the excitement and the sounds of the city.. there are more places to go and hang out.. one thing I am not allowed to do is randomly stop in and check out what is done at a place. lets face it how many places do you drive by and then wonder.. gosh I wonder what they do there? so stop in ask then ask for a tour LOL. ( oops.. LOL It scared my wife when I did that at one place and she put a stop to it after that and after I visited that place they closed and moved everything in two days after I stopped in to visit..I have to admit that visit had the hackles on the back of my neck were up to LOL but once I was in there I was committed to ask )
        for me.. and myself.. give me rural america.. the city I guess would be ok if you like that kind of stuff but I prefer the more relaxed non stressful life.. a few years ago I had to make a trip to the city.. what I noticed was that no one smiled.. no one stopped to visit.. everyone had this look of determination on their face.. ( a cardiac surgeons paradise.. ) that is not for me..

    • I don’t know about government intrusion as well .. I think our local constable has esp.. I put steak or burgers on the grill.. and wouldn’t you know it.. he will stop and chat we actually joke if he is running late LOL LOL LOL.. anymore we just put extra out for him..but then.. he is there for us to.. father in law stopped to pick up a tool of his I had borrowed when I was building the house… the constable stopped and asked if we wanted him to go get it back LOL

    • One day when my wife & I were in Rome, I was talking to the Pope, & a lady came up to my wife & said, ‘Who is that man talking to ECS.’

      • ECS.. I am jealous of you as well.. I would love to visit with the pope give me a couple hours..awesome guy I have as much respect for him as I do for mr. Buffet..( I may make a road trip for coffee with him though.just to visit about RW life subjects and leave his work at work..) and what I wouldn’t give to have a month in the Vatican’s sealed library.. phew.. the same with the library in Russia phew.. but then that would be my description of Heaven.. my fear is when it’s my time that I will reside in a warmer climate.

  2. What do you think about the cost of fuel as a main concern for the sustainability of rural communities? It’s a variable that affects many others.

    Also in our area, population impact is evident from ‘climate refugees’. While they don’t look like your traditional ‘fugee, many are moving here because of the abundant fresh water, fresh air, and green trees. How does water figure in your rural revitalization vision?

    We love the small town we live in, over the ridge and across the river from Microsoft ground zero. MS has transformed the general area, exacerbating the haves/have nots, as the original inhabitants are what you’re used to seeing in ‘rural’ areas, like modular homes, old trucks, rusty tractors, and good neighbors who know each other.

    Howsomeever, we with a tech income blew up housing, making it difficult for the original folks to keep their rental, but sure adding a ton of wealth if you owned your house before 2006. Many properties changed hands, got improved, and families boomed. This rejuvenated community started a farmer’s market, revitalized the local farming scene, cleaned up the secret dumps on every back road, and built schools.

    This transition isn’t welcomed by everyone, but the success of families raising kids to be good people is obvious in the local libraries, sports teams, art contests, fun runs, civic parades (with Mexican dancing horses!), and cops with a sense of humor.
    So, while it isn’t really rural, it is an isolated country community, kind of suburban-light, and if we ever need river boats again, we’re properly situated for that, too!

    Now, if only we could all get along, instead of this Trump vs. the world mentality. The vituperation saturation has definitely strained or ended many relationships here. My former yoga friends went full-tard with “the NRA are murderers/terrorists!”. We don’t do yoga there anymore. Our small town social fabric continues to be divided into blue warp and red weft, threatening the whole cloth of a once well-functioning little town.

    Why is BookFace and the socials poison? Weren’t we once taught to keep our opinions to ourselves?
    Anyway…Here’s a little formula for success I’ve been working on:
    1 Golden Rule + 10 Commandments + Bill of Rights + ego awareness/humility + learn/work ethic = peace, stability, mutual respect, prosperity. What’d I miss?

    Enough. Time to make some donuts.

      • Thanks, George.
        This is another abstractions vs. anecdotes conversation. Mark has his life experiences and preferences, and so do I. That they don’t match should be cause for celebration and mutually respectful discussion. That it isn’t is a sign of the times. I think Mark glosses over some of the dirty back alleys of the bay area megalopolis, and I’m sure I romanticize my little corner of rurality.

        I boiled it down to this; California has over 30 million people, with 10+ million in the bay area. Washington state has about 7 million residents, with about 5 million in greater Pugetropolis (B’ham to Tacoma). With higher concentrations of population, negatives begin to stack. You can avoid the negatives with higher incomes, but then you must ignore the plight of your poorer neighbors. The majority of people in California have perfected leveraging the ills of their society for increasing bureaucracies and taxes, while critical infrastructure continues to be impacted either by ignoring or corruption (see the new bay bridge as one example.) It’s easy to know when you cross the border into CA because the roads suddenly suck, bad.
        I’m glad Mark likes it where he is. I hope he stays.

      • For me, it’s easy: Both cities have their pluses: Alioto’s versus Ivars.
        But this gets to the point of tomorrow morning’s discussion about the missing American Paradigm…but more on that as thoughts gel.

      • Emeryville Trader Vic’s was our goto. Pier 39 for chowder in sourdough.
        Nothing like slogging through the ebbing slot on a howly summer afternoon, then find a guest slip for a quick bowl of soup.

      • I don’t dislike rural areas at all. I like to fish and camp in Yosemite, the Sierra’s, Central Coast, anywhere in Mendocino County etc. Great place to visit…Just don’t want to live there. I am sure the opposite is true to rural folk. I love big city life. Wouldn’t trade to for anything. I am sure many rural families feel the same way about where they live. It’s all good.

    • What you missed was the right to socialize, live by, and go to school with people of our culture/color/race. All the animals (mammals, reptiles, etc.,) do it, all the bees, insects, and ants do it, every living creature on earth does it, but we aren’t allowed to do it, that’s what you missed!

  3. George,

    Unless my math is off, the fecal index for 20 references and 10 people is 2. The point remains valid though.

  4. Snoqualmie and Mark both have their views but Snoqualmie really hit it on the head. With all the people from bigger towns coming out to what once was a heaven on Earth for us out here in the West Texas sticks us old folks are an embattled bunch indeed. We’ve had our “curious” people back in the day but we could always handle them. Now the curios ones seem to be those that want to take over and raise the tax rates to levels they’re comfortable with and force out the people that have been here for generations – namely lifelong friends. Wage earners and those living hand to mouth for whatever reason aren’t THEIR kind of people and the new wealthy ones stand to make a bundle in real estate as our town falls under their control. No one ever wanted to rule the town before but they’ve found a way to do it through the local school board that is fully staffed by these people.

    Recent elections have split our area down the middle and defined an “us vs. them” mentality if not an actual cultural war. Again, I keep praying for that huge stock market disaster that will take the money out of the system so that we can all get back to a level where helping each other doesn’t equate with robbing each other of our culture and property. People used to live out here to think their own thoughts and get away from Big Brother but those with fanatical Group Think in their minds from the cities seem to have better organizational resources than the old folks here. I feel like we’re fighting The Borg. No quarter is offered, none asked for.

    • I bet all those group think types think they’re individuals and unique in their perspectives. Kind of like all the peeps with tats all over their bodies ( they’re everywhere) think somehow theyre expressing what an individual and a rogue they are. Ya, uh huh

    • Bill, all it takes is for the locals to refuse to sell to outsiders, at any price, and the carpetbaggers won’t be able to get a foothold. It may be too late for your personal chunk of paradise, but it IS done, and successfully:

      ‘Ever been to an Amish farm auction? I have – several. They don’t happen very often, because rights of survivorship run deep. We Philistines can’t walk in and buy that land, period. I’ve seen Amish men buy $6000 land at $20000/acre, and $10k land at $50k/acre, just to prevent a secular sale. The Amish have their own banks, which will write 135 year mortgages (I got to look over the paperwork on one) if need be, for the sole sake of keeping Amish land, Amish, and Amish communities, unpolluted… something that’s more important to them than money.

      • That’s one church group I’d actually think about joining. Not that they’d have me but I’d love to learn and have a practical use for German.

        There used to be colonies of Mennonites in Mexico and some in Texas. I wonder if they’re still South of the border with all the cartel activity?

      • Still a large colony up in southern Oklahoma. Fine, peaceful people, too. Ton of respect for their “old ways” and values. Wish there was a way to export some to Washington, Oregon, and Califoonia

      • As far as I can tell, Amish and Mennonite are two opinions regarding the same path. I believe the majority of Mennonites drive cars and dress in store-bought, although the females mostly wear calf-length dresses or skirts. They’re fine folks, gentle and good natured, and pretty much lacking conceit and narcissism, even the kids. The auction where I saw the contract was in Ohio. I’ve been to auctions in Indiana and Michigan also.

        Shipshewana, Indiana is considered an Amish town, although nowadays it’s mostly a tourist destination, but it is also the location of the Amish and Mennonite Museum, which looks like a church that ate four large barns (I’ve never been inside, but since I’ve never seen an Amish and Dunkard or Amish and Quaker Museum, I’m gonna kinda hafta assume the Amish and Mennonite religions are related, until proven otherwise…)

  5. Hello George how you doing there.?

    Have you looked into putting a cell phone booster on your ham tower.?

  6. Okay, I have to wade in here, too.

    (playing off both George’s and Mark’s numbered points, BTW)

    1. The traffic is stupid bad. I’ve been in darn near every “class A” city east of the Sierras at one time or another. Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to that kind of insanity? If’fn you can work from your self-driving car, you can work from home.

    2. Total crime rates may be lower (I dunno and I’m not going to dig through the FBI and CDC databases for this post) but I’m reasonably certain violent crime rates are much higher. When somebody gets shot in the big city, it’s page 16 – and gone, unless the shooter or shootee is a celeb. When somebody gets shot in Moline or Paducah or Asheville, it’s page 1 and stays in the local cycle for weeks.

    • 3. Even way out in the boonies, I rarely smell the damn’ Roundup, but always smell the clover and alfalfa, especially after a rain or a fresh cutting.

      4. This week: Whole milk – $.99/gal, grade “A” large eggs – $.99/doz, ground chuck (choice, from Angus) – 2.39/lb… “everyday,” not sale prices (but triple them for organics.) Escargot and fresh lobster are spendy, but bread and buns are a buck and Oscar Meyer dogs of any style are $1.29/lb., on sale. These prices are from the store I most-frequently shop, which is not the least expensive place within driving distance, but tends to have consistent-quality. When it begins to come in season, in a month or so, local organic produce will sell for cheaper at the farmers’ markets than non-organics in the stupidmarkets… Oh, and I have nearly a half-acre tilled, and will have a few rows of corn & beans to go with my wabbit food and marigolds, as soon as the ground gets a little warmer.

      5. Seriously? My property taxes total less than $800/yr, and I own multiple properties, in multiple States. I’m already paying for many services I’ll never use. Why would I want to pay for more?

      • 6. Here I disagree. With unfunded American pension liabilities of 3x the total GDP of Earth, I think in some way, everybody is gonna pay, unless the PTB install Carousel in every city (that’s a reference to “Logan’s Run,” not your local carnival…)

        7. I see towns converting houses and buildings into greenspace, and thence to garden space all over the place. Sucks for the people who used to live in those structures… ‘Guess they can move to SeaTac.

        8. See #2. I’ve walked the south side of Chicago, downtown Detroit, East St. Louis, EC Baltimore, Bronx, Atlanta, D.C., etc. at night and alone. I haven’t done it in the past 17 years though, nor would I again. The glitzy part of any town is a low-crime area, until it gets to be a quarter to closing at the nightspots. The rest, not so much…

      • 9. …And it won’t bother you, until you are the one being intruded upon. As for “protection,” don’t count on it. We’ve gone a long way down since REO Speedwagon’s “Golden Country.”

      • 10. I agree, but don’t care because I no longer have a need, nor rarely a desire, to fly anywhere.

      • ‘Point is, Mark, the big city is fine for you. You like the glitz and glitter, and have an income sufficient to insulate you from the city’s underbelly. I don’t care for the glitz any more. I’d rather see real stars than the ones in the footlights, and I actually enjoy quiet which is so absent of sound as to be painful, when first experienced.

        Some folks will flock to your oasis, some to mine. I believe George’s point was that in the not too distant future, more will seek what I’ve found, as the need to be physically present in yours, wanes…

        Sorry about the broken post. George’s filter did not like the phrase: I a g r e e w i t h y o u r a n a l y s i s in “point 10” for some reason…

  7. Truth is some folks are city folks and others are country folk……I personally think its a difference in mental space and one’s ability to deal with other humans electrical field interfering with their own. As for me I know which I am.

  8. 7 years ago I drove out to Madison SD. to look it over. county seat–11,000 people–4,000 student state university–`17,000 in the county. Living there would be much more expensive than the 400k metro area I live in.
    All utilities cost more. Sewer and water were 3 times more. I asked how they got to a Home depot. Drive 42 miles to Brookings, or 47 miles to Sioux Falls. The same answer for almost all the purchases I make within 7 miles of my house. One grocery store in town, about like a 1980’s big city supermarket. I have 300,000 sq. ft. of grocery stores within 7 miles of my house.( yes, 2 stores of over 100,000 sq. ft.)
    And, for some reason, they pay half again as much for housing as in my metro area.

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