It’s Spring! And last week was National Small Business Week (April 30 – May 6). It’s okay if you missed it. I will do my best to convince you that we can live local every week of the year.
I am privileged to have been asked to speak for the Fillmore Central National Honor Society on the night of the Spring Equinox. I feel I wouldn’t have this opportunity if I lived amid a large city with more people. It makes me hopeful to think of these students coming back to our small communities as nurse practitioners, teachers, engineers, law enforcers, farmers, artists, coordinators, and small business owners.
When I stood before these students that evening, I couldn’t help but think that these young men and women are the future destined to live in the society determined by the generations before them. They were all born without a say in what condition their world would be in. Everyone is. The small towns and communities of southeast Minnesota have provided a unique experience that will be reflected in their actions if they move beyond eyesight and earshot for a time.
I think it is important for students to leave, for a while at least to go to college, to truly appreciate what we have here and bring back their experiences. I look forward to the time when I can see them again as young adults, bringing their significant others to Bluff Country, and becoming members of an involved community.
One of the many reasons Bluff Country is home for me is the visible raw commitment of the residents who live here. From Community Foundations in these small towns to the dedication parents have for their children (particularly in sporting and academic events!).
I see opportunity with small shops and industry in our towns; electricians, plumbers, grocery clerks. We have farmers committed to being good stewards of the earth. We have fair and good and dedicated law enforcement, volunteer firefighters, and EMTs for which I have been eternally grateful for their services on more than one occasion.
I see solidarity for our schools, and, when that’s not always the case, solidarity for the students and faculty. I see people willing to discuss productively when differences in opinions or priorities meet.
I see neighbors greet neighbors without hostility, even though they have different names on lawn signs. I hear conversation about real issues that we all face together.
I see so many wonderful and committed people, not to mention the natural beauty of our region. Our nationally and internationally recognized environmental learning centers, beautiful state and local parks, bike trails, and rivers are just a few of my favorite recreational hotspots to hit up this spring and summer.
I’m not saying we live in a Utopia; there are difficulties that arise, of course! But we have committed families and communities ready to face those challenges and productively work out differences. This is a good place to have a home, not merely a house. It’s a good place to live local and invest in the future. How can we invest locally?
Think of each of our small towns as a community investment bank. Some banks have different perks than others, and, the beauty of it all is, you can invest in multiple communities just as you can in multiple banks, so you get all the perks! Living and buying local builds not only our small businesses, it helps our neighbors. Making investments at home in Bluff Country brings a sustainable lifestyle, community growth, and a strong local economy.
A parting challenge: although National Small Business Week was last week, I encourage everyone to visit one new shop (restaurant, natural feature or trail, etc.) in Bluff Country each week. That could be 52 new store fronts or hiking trails by this time next year. Bring your family!
Our small communities have a future, and I encourage adults to help the future generation recognize the beautiful people, landscape, and opportunities among us. As it goes for people, so it goes for small businesses and communities; it matters where we invest our time and our money. I encourage you to shop local, invest local, and live local. Cheers!