Advantages of Living in a Small Town Part 3: Making an Impact
This week's post wraps up a three-part series about the advantages of living in a small town, a topic we also explored in our recent 2013 Top 10 Best Small Towns List. Just as important as the advantages outlined in the first two posts -- lower cost of living and a sense of community -- many small-town residents also enjoy how they can make a bigger and more immediate impact on their surroundings.
Granted, people in any size city can bring about positive changes to their neighborhoods, and sometimes those positive initiatives spread much further to benefit a city's entire population. A great example of that is the Beacon Food Forest I wrote about several weeks ago, which will be located near Seattle's Beacon Bill community yet benefit anyone who wants to visit it. But consider the impact of such a project in Longview, Wash. instead of in Seattle. Getting the community-wide buy-in from a greater relative percentage of the population would more effectively affect the small city's image than it does the large city. Why is that?
Less competition and the underdog phenomenon. Less competition means fewer big ideas competing for an audience and participation, and the underdog phenomenon means people -- inside and outside a community -- generally love it when "the little guy" does great big things.
These two concepts allow small towns to create the perfect environment for big ideas to grow, get noticed and improve residents' quality of life almost immediately. In some cases, all these towns are waiting for are people with vision and focus to get things done.
Here are a just a few examples from Livability cities where that is already happening:
- Health Care: If you live in North Carolina and need a hip or knee replacement, you want to be in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., where Halifax Regional Medical Center's 12-bed Joint Care Center has the lowest complication rate for such surgeries in the state. And while no one wants to end up at a hospital, it bears mentioning that at this one, you may receive nursing care from five of the state's Great 100 Nurses in North Carolina, or even Nursing 2012 magazine's Nurse of the Year, Dawn Bennett.
- Government Involvement: I toured the recently renovated City Hall and Memorial Hall in Pueblo, Colo. last month, and citizens should be proud of their new city government offices, especially the council chamber. Besides its attractive appearance, the meeting space incorporates technology enabling meetings held in the 132-seat room to be broadcast to the large and beautifully restored Memorial Hall section of the building if needed. It remains to be seen how often it will be necessary to accommodate large crowds for council meetings, but it certainly sends a message that this small city takes a "the more the merrier" approach to public participation in government decision making.
- Education: Besides usually offering smaller class sizes and teacher/student ratios, forward-thinking small districts have been able to successfully launch technology initiatives thanks in part to their scale. Henry County, Va. (Martinsville, Va.) students were among the first to participate in Virginia's Beyond Textbooks initiative starting in 2010, which equipped kids in select grade levels with iPads. Students in the McAllen Independent School District benefit from one of the largest system-wide iPad educational rollouts in the world.
- Business: I've seen a lot of quaint downtowns and beautifully restored historic Main Streets, and some of the best had considerable help getting that way through large grant programs. Yet groups of volunteers in small towns throughout the Southern and Eastern Idaho regions have been taking matters into their own hands with Operation Facelift each year, sprucing up their downtowns with minimal funding and taking on just a few small projects at a time.