What the people who won’t move to town will tell you

Sometimes, it only takes one “I’m not moving there!” story to give your town an inferiority complex for years and years. 

A rural town of about 11,000 people near me was recruiting for a high school football coach. That’s important stuff in Oklahoma! The leading candidate visited the town with his wife. She took one look at the town and said she couldn’t live there because they don’t have a Nordstrom upscale department store. That was the end of their visit.  

I’ve heard that “football coach’s wife” story over and over. People from that town repeated that story to justify spending tens of thousands of dollars on retail recruitment for years. They wouldn’t be able to recruit a Nordstrom store if they were 10 times as large. It’s just not who they are. They do have several outstanding locally-owned clothing and department stores in their downtown. I know because I’ve shopped there. All that money on retail recruitment, compared to the little they spent supporting locally-owned entrepreneurship, all because of that one story. 

Here’s the problem: They were never going to get that coach. 

If it hadn’t been the Nordstrom’s, it would have been something else. He and his family just weren’t a good fit. 

You’ll never get everyone to like your town. It takes a certain person to appreciate your quirks and charm. You’re not for everyone. That’s OK. You can’t lose the people who were never yours. 

I thought of this story when I visited a town in Washington state that has a similar negative view of one of their entryways. When you pull off the highway at one end of town, you drive through an attractive neighborhood. At the other end of town, you pass through a busy industrial area.  

The local hospital was recruiting for a new doctor. A local person was driving a candidate into town. Without thinking, he came through the industrial area because it was closer to the hospital. The candidate asked the driver to stop and turn around. He wasn’t going to even consider moving to such an “ugly” industrial town. 

Should the town spend millions and millions to redo just one of the entryways into town? They were never going to get this guy, either. But they’re still telling the story, years later. I think they should be proud to have such strong industry supporting their local economy.

Are you letting people who are not a good fit for your town define you?  

Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS –  Have you printed out the Small Town Creed and posted it? Send me a pic!