My friend Paul Chaney asked me this, and I thought you might be thinking about it, too.
“Hi, Becky. I’m working with a group here in Natchez that is focused on figuring out ways to make it attractive to location-independent workers (that’s one group anyway; also, artisans, makers, the creative community). Also, interested to know if you have a list of best small towns for location-independent workers or know of where I can find one.”
Why do location-independent workers matter? Urbanscale.com took the premise that the number of location-independent workers is a good measure of the quality of a place. If people who can choose where they live, do choose your town, they are voting that they like the quality of your place. So you could compare your town to similarly sized towns, to see which ones have attracted the most location-independent workers. Urbanscale used US Census Bureau, American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates from 2013. The trick is that the ACS doesn’t cover really small towns.
Read the article at Urbanscale.com
So what makes location-independent people pick your town? If people think it’s a nice place to visit, they’ll think it’s a nice place to live. That’s what Cynthia Reid (VP for Marketing and Communications for the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce) learned when trying to recruit major businesses to her metropolitan area. I believe it applies in small towns, too.
Read the article at SmallBizSurvival.com
Building on that, the next step is thinking about what makes a place into a nice place to visit. Travelers are increasingly looking for small town qualities. The very things that make us unique rural places are more appealing to travelers, and then ultimately more appealing to new residents.
Read about changing travel motivations here
So that’s the secret to attracting location-independent workers, artists, makers or anyone really. Make your town a nice place to visit. Immerse people in your culture. Connect them to local activities. Show off your mom and pop authenticity. Feed their need to know, explore and experiment.
If you’d like to see the process used by a county that is doing a project on attracting entrepreneurial talent, check out this from the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship:
Attracting Entrepreneurial Talent
Paul also asked about “best small towns for independent workers” lists. I don’t know of any that specific. My two favorite “best small towns” lists are from Smithsonian and Livability. Thanks to Matt Carmichael for sending me the link for the Livability list and talking with me about their selection criteria.
Have you run across a list of “best towns for independent workers” list? Hit reply and tell me about it.
Keep shaping the future of your town,
PS – If you have a thorny question about your small town, don’t be afraid to hit reply and ask. I may not know the answer, but I will see what I can do.