September 24, 2007 - The Need For Rural Development

During his listening sessions a couple years ago, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns heard a great deal about expanding rural development programs. Speakers talked about the need to develop and maintain infrastructure in rural towns and communities to attract industries and the resulting jobs to stop the “brain drain” to the big cities; to keep native sons and daughters at home, providing them with a lifestyle and an income that would make it attractive to stay closer to home and family and friends.

One state has decided to do more than just wring its hands and talk about the problem. North Dakota has launched an interesting program to not only stop the “brain drain”, but actually reverse it. North Dakota admits it needs its native sons and daughters because they have seen a large loss of talented young people to Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis/ St. Paul and other large cities that offer more jobs and higher pay. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 21,000 North Dakotans left the state between 2000 and 2007.

So the state is now conducting a campaign to invite people who left the state to come back home and go to work there. They are actively recruiting native sons and daughters who left after completing college with this pitch from Gov. John Hoeven....”We have quality jobs available, quality of life and a good safe place to live and raise a family.”

This is how the campaign works. About 70 businesses located in the state have signed up for a series of job fairs; two have already been held, one in Chicago and the other in the Twin Cities, a third will be held in Denver November 17th. Each of the 70 companies involved in trying to attract young native North Dakotans back to the state must offer jobs paying more than $30,000.00 a year with benefits if they want to be a participant in the job fair. The jobs they are talking about range from assistant attorney general to water resource engineer.

It’s an interesting campaign, but again, it comes back to the need for rural development funds and programs to provide the jobs that will stop the “brain drain” from any rural state and keep young people at home, enjoying a lifestyle that, indeed, is attractive to a lot of people. If you care, you might suggest to Congress that it raise the funding for rural development in the 2007 farm bill. Meanwhile I tip my hat to the people of North Dakota for taking action. My best wishes for success.

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