Got them post-industrial small town blues

I’ve had a lot of demographic, socio-economic, political, cultural babble running through my brain this last week, as my posts have surely shown. Baseball season can’t come soon enough. Anyway, another way of looking at the woes of the Iron Range is to look at the troubles facing small towns generally.

This March 23 “Why are small towns dying?” conversation over at the Minnesota 20/20 site was good for a think, as was this Kate Searls pilot study for Minnesota Rural Partners, Inc. (“Estimating Rural and Urban Minnesota’s interdependencies.”)

If Searls is right, Minnesota small towns and big cities are interdependent to a large degree. Small towns handle industry and functions that cities cannot and produce a unique talent pool that positively affects cities. Cities, of course, provide money, goods and services that small towns can’t generate on their own, along with potential future residents (perhaps in the form of jackass sons-in-law, as the trope would have it).

If the comments over at MN2020 are to be believed, small towns need to be more independent and open minded to change their fates. As it stands, small towns are becoming paralyzed by their dwindling residents’ fears and inability to escape the past.

What do we do with a problem like this? What do we do when a couple dozen small towns comprise a region like the Iron Range, half of whom are actively bitching about the other half over something from the ’70s?

We need to talk. We need to commit to a plan.


  1. I’m sure this discussion will lead to the talk of property tax and State assistance (LGA) to small towns and rural folks. During the 1990’s LGA increased and so did property taxes. So the theory that without LGA property taxes would go up….. Hell, they went up with LGA increasing. Can we all agree that we rode the free train far enough. Local governments will have to figure out a budget and stick with it. Cuts are coming one way or the other. Shouldn’t we have a grown up conversation about the cuts, not a “you can’t take from me, it’s mine” childish rant. As Dylan said “the times they are a changing”.
    This conversation usually is followed up with tax the rich. 20% of Minnesotans make 90,000 or more, they pay 3/4 of the States income tax. If you go out to dinner with 10 friends the bill is a $100, everybody ordered the same thing, 2 people throw $75 on the table to pay bill, don’t you think the other 8 can handle the $25? As I’ve said many times before, we don’t have a tax problem we have a spending problem.
    At a time in the near future we are going to have to face the facts that we’re broke and things will have to change. Not fun to think about but it’s reality.

  2. I think there is a lot more at play in the rural disintigration dynamic than just tax policy. Of course LGA was supposed to be to support small towns and was turned into a trough for Duluth and the Twin Cities. But even if the Republicans are successful in fixing that all that will produce is modest stabilization.

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