What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
Giving Compass' Take:
· Kimberly Zarecor explains her 'Shrink Smart' project and why rural towns in America that are losing population should focus on the residents they have rather than trying to attract new ones.
· What role can funders play in supporting rural communities experiencing shrinkage?
· Read about creating prosperity in rural America.
Just outside tiny Sheffield, Iowa, a modern steel and glass office building has sprung up next to a cornfield. Behind it, there's a plant that employs almost 700 workers making Sukup brand steel grain bins. The factory provides an economic anchor for Sheffield, population 1,125.
Charles Sukup, the company's president, says that even though workers can be hard to come by, there are no plans to relocate.
"Our philosophy is you bloom where you're planted," Sukup says with a smile.
Many small towns would love to be in Sheffield's position, with a thriving factory providing good-paying jobs. And Sheffield has civic pride: the West Fork Wharf restaurant features tabletops cut out of the old high school gym floor, local memorabilia displays and sandwiches recalling sports rivalries. People are excited about the recently opened coffee shop in the old city hall building. But Sheffield is still a small, remote, rural town, and for all its blessings, it is nonetheless losing population. According to census estimates, the numbers slipped by about 4 percent between 2010 and 2016.
Population loss like Sheffield's is happening in small towns across the U.S. "The big picture for all rural communities that don't have a connection to a growing metro area is that they are going to get smaller over time," says Kimberly Zarecor, associate professor of architecture at Iowa State University.
Read the full article about rural towns losing population by Frank Morris at Harvest Public Media.