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Open Forum: The Great Recession in rural communities

The “Great Recession” has hit rural communities harder than more populated areas, delaying long-planned retirement for many aging workers, and motivating many people to seek creative ways to reduce costs, including a close examination of public spending.

At the same time, the future of our community depends upon sustaining an environment in which young people want to live, work, and raise their children. Quality schools are critical to that effort by having a positive impact on business development, community partnerships, and the property values of existing homes. What business wants to locate or expand in a community where skilled workers are not available? What family wishes to move to a community where their children are less likely to receive a quality education?

The Brainerd Public Schools do a fantastic job of guiding both of my children; my greater concern is that we continue to provide a similar quality of education and opportunity for all young people in the community. To achieve this, passage of the school levy is needed to provide the district with a source of stable and predictable funding at a time of state and federal funding shifts and shortfalls. Specific uses include controlling class size, maintaining a range of specific programs in technical and trade skills, and providing equal access to arts, music, and athletic opportunities.

Although the recession has delayed the retirement of many, the departure of a large number from the active work force is inevitable, and the students of today will be our auto mechanics, nurse practitioners, entrepreneurs, community leaders and taxpayers of tomorrow. I’m counting on our community to make sure they have the technical and critical thinking skills to continue to build our community.

Don Hickman